2013: The year's biggest Aerospace Technology stories

Emirates Airline announced $99bn Boeing and Airbus jet order, the first pilotless aircraft made its maiden flight in UK airspace, while Airbus unveiled its Concept Plane. Aerospace-technology.com wraps up key headlines from 2013.


Aerospace 2013

Emirates Airline announces $99bn Boeing and Airbus jet order

1

Dubai-based Emirates Airline placed $76bn of orders for 150 Boeing 777x aircraft, and a further $23bn of 50 Airbus A380 jets, at the Dubai Air Show.

Emirates' Boeing order comprised 35 Boeing 777-8Xs and 115 Boeing 777-9Xs, with additional 50 purchase rights.

Together, the orders for Boeing and Airbus aircraft, excluding purchase rights, were worth around $99bn at list prices.

Airbus and MIT to explore digital manufacturing of aerospace vehicles

2

Airbus and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US signed a research agreement to explore the use of digital manufacturing in aerospace industry.

Under the new partnership, the aircraft maker will evaluate the different ways the digital material concepts that are being developed at MIT can potentially be applied to the design and construction of aerospace vehicles.

Airbus R&T senior vice-president Axel Krein said that the agreement with MIT opens up an interesting collaboration with a cutting-edge research partner.

India launches low-cost Mars mission

3

India launched its first spacecraft to Mars, in an effort to reach the red planet at a lower cost than previous missions by other nations.

The country's first interplanetary probe, the 'Mangalyaan' or Mars Orbiter Spacecraft, onboard PSLV-C25, was launched on 5 November from Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Sriharikota in the state of Andhra Pradesh.

The project will cost $69.3m, which is significantly less than Nasa's Curiosity mission to Mars, launched in 2011, with an investment of $2.5bn.

European Space Agency to build 3D printed metal parts

4

The European Space Agency (ESA) is planning to build 3D-printed metal components for use in aircraft, spacecraft and nuclear fusion projects.

The agency's project called, 'Additive Manufacturing Aiming Towards Zero Waste & Efficient Production of High-Tech Metal Products (AMAZE)', aims to use 3D printing or additive manufacturing method to make metal parts that are cost-effective, lighter and stronger than conventional components.

ESA new materials and energy research head David Jarvis told BBC: "We want to build the best quality metal products ever made. Objects you can't possibly manufacture any other way."

China's revised timeline for Comac C919 aircraft

5

The Commercial Aircraft Corp of China (Comac) is working out a revised timeline to launch its Comac C919, the country's largest domestically produced aircraft.

The proposed move is expected to give Comac rivals, Boeing Co and Airbus, time to introduce their improved single-aisle aircraft.

Despite its interest to develop a commercial aircraft in line with the US and Europe to compete the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737, the lack of experience and local industry-specific talent are affecting the project.

First pilotless aircraft makes maiden flight in UK

6

An unmanned BAE Systems' Jetstream aircraft known as 'The Flying Test Bed' successfully completed its maiden flight, becoming the world's first unmanned flight across the UK-shared airspace.

The aircraft, specially adapted to fly in unmanned mode, took off from Warton in Lancashire and landed in Inverness, Scotland.

BAE Systems noted that this development marked another step forward in the evolution of flight and proves that future technology of this kind could be safe.

University of Iowa to develop new concepts for safer air travel

7

The University of Iowa (UI) is set to conduct a new project to combat aircraft crew spatial disorientation in-flight, which may help improve safety in commercial air travel.

The three-year project, which will receive $1.2m grant from Nasa, will focus on pilot perception and awareness.

It is aimed at developing concepts and methods to assist crews avoid, detect, mitigate and recover from hazardous situations that could lead to loss of control, due to spatial disorientation.

FAA invites proposals to develop unleaded aviation fuel

8

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) invited fuel manufacturers to submit proposals to develop a new unleaded fuel by 2018.

The FAA hoped that unleaded fuel would replace 100 octane low-lead fuel currently being used in most aircraft.

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said: "The FAA knows the general aviation community and the Environmental Protection Agency are focused on this issue, and we look forward to collaborating with fuel producers to make an unleaded avgas available for the general aviation fleet."

Airbus unveils Concept Plane with novel aircraft design

9

Airbus unveiled a new aircraft design, the Concept Plane, at the TEDGlobal 2013 conference in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Designed by a team of structural engineers at Airbus, the Concept Plane's relatively lightweight design is based on the human skeleton structure and is expected to lower fuel costs.

The European aircraft manufacturer stated that the aim would be to 3D print the composite material which would result in the structure.

Terrafugia to develop hybrid-electric flying aircraft

US Aerospace firm Terrafugia started feasibility studies on a four-seat, vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) plug-in hybrid-electric flying car aircraft, the TF-X.

The TF-X will use intelligent systems, fly-by-wire controls, and currently available technologies in order to increase the level of safety, simplicity, and convenience of personal aviation, according to Terrafugia.

TF-X is a fixed-wing aircraft with electric ground drive and electric power assist on takeoff and landing. It will be able to recharge its batteries either from its engine or by plugging in to electric car charging stations.

FAA approves Boeing's redesigned battery system for 787 Dreamliner

10

US aviation regulator Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved Boeing's design for modifications to the 787 Dreamliner battery system, a development enabling 787s to return to service upon installation of the improvements.

The redesigned battery system included improved insulation of the cells, a redesign of the internal battery components to lower initiation of a short circuit within the battery and a new containment and venting system.

In mid-January, FAA grounded all 50 787s in-service worldwide following a battery fire on a 787 that landed in Boston's Logan International Airport and another case of an overheated battery, which prompted Japan's All Nippon Airways' jetliner to make an emergency landing.