Professor Terry Knibb, former chief scientist at BAE Systems and a member of the ACARE Integration Team, told delegates at the RAeS conference that while ACARE’s 2020 goals are “still valid,” ACARE recognized that aircraft designs haven’t changed much. For this reason, “Out of the Box” was initiated “to look at the wild ideas, for things with a kernel of possibility that could stimulate step-changes in air transport,” said Knibb.
“We were looking for innovative, discontinuous, revolutionary ideas,” he continued. “We had workshops and then filtered the concepts to propose research programs. From 100 ideas we identified six as having the most potential.” (Among suggestions that were rejected, said Knibb, were group flying, runways on the sea, beaming power to aircraft and a Star Trek-like “cloaking device.”)
The study results now link to the European Union CREATE program, which will try to develop some of the more realistic ideas into long-term projects, said Knibb.
Knibb said ACARE’s goals are to develop technology for 2020 but that doesn’t mean it will be ready to place products by then. “I believe it will have to be a significant step-change but is very unlikely to include things such as water-borne runways and rail accelerators,” he said. “But we will have to do something very different to really make the step-change.”
He also said that the full benefits of any new narrowbody aircraft would not come until “say 2050, when the [old] fleet is phased out.” That, he added, is why shorter term improvements from ATC, for example, are so important.