A new contract to develop the bleed air system for the Airbus A320neo and the opening on September 22 of a €27 million test and development center at its Toulouse manufacturing site underline Liebherr-Aerospace’s ambition to continue growing its estimated 40 percent share of the market for civil aircraft air management systems.
The electro-pneumatic bleed air system will equip both Pratt & Whitney PW1100G and CFM Leap-X-engined variants of the A320neo. Other new programs for which the company supplies air management systems include the Boeing 747-8, Bombardier C Series, Comac C919 and Sukhoi Superjet 100, as well as the Embraer KC-390 military tanker-transport and Learjet 85 business jet.
Liebherr-Aerospace’s air systems also appear in airframes ranging from the Airbus A380 to helicopters and targeting pods carried by military aircraft. As an example of the extreme temperatures and pressures involved, a pre-cooler on each A380 engine takes bleed air at 600 degrees C and 60 bar, cools it to 20 degrees C and reduces the pressure to 1 bar to cool and pressurize the cabin.
The other main aerospace activities of Liebherr-Aerospace & Transportation, involve landing gear and actuation systems. Current programs include the nose landing gear and slat actuation system for the Airbus A350, the landing gear systems for the C Series and C919, the Superjet’s complete flight control system and slat actuation for the Learjet 85.
Run by founder Hans Liebherr’s son and daughter and wholly family-owned, Liebherr is in a position to invest for the long term, said Francis Niss, president of the group’s Liebherr-Aerospace & Transportation division. Last year the division spent more than €160 million on R&D, on top of around €400 million in the previous three years. Revenues at Liebherr-Aerospace Toulouse tripled from around €100 million at the beginning of the last decade to €300 million in 2010.
The new test and development center will help the company develop new technologies for both conventional bleed air-based and possible future bleedless air systems such as that used by the Boeing 787, said executive board member Jean-Luc Maigne. To test production equipment it can generate air at pressures ranging from 0.1 to 40 bar and temperatures ranging from -60 degrees C to 600 degrees C to simulate operational conditions such as high-altitude ambient air and engine compressor temperatures and pressures. It even includes an anechoic chamber, unique to Europe, according to Maigne, to help measure, test and optimize the noise effects of systems.