European Commission, Industry Launch Clean Sky 2

 - August 3, 2014, 12:50 AM

The European Commission (EC) on July 9 officially launched the Clean Sky 2 joint technology initiative, a €4 billion ($5.44 billion) follow-on to the ongoing Clean Sky research program. It includes a number of projects for business aircraft–both turboprops and jets–as well as regional turboprops and rotorcraft.

Dassault, for example, is leading a project that will conclude in flight-testing active laminar flow, a technology that could significantly improve fuel burn. While the principle is well known in laboratories, the challenge will be to enhance its technology readiness level and make it affordable, Eric Dautriat, executive director of the Clean Sky joint undertaking, told AIN. Active laminar flow eliminates the boundary layer by drawing the stagnant air into the airframe through tiny holes on the surface of wings and engine nacelles.

Piaggio and Czech-based Evektor will coordinate efforts in four- to 19-seat aircraft–for sport, utility and business applications. Their priority will be to reduce engine ownership costs, Dautriat explained. Diesel engines could even be considered as a replacement for some turboprops.

In the regional aircraft sector, Alenia and Airbus Group (both ATR shareholders) are focusing on cutting weight, notably through use of a composite fuselage. They are also endeavoring to create a more efficient wing through an adaptive profile. Dautriat said Clean Sky 2’s regional aircraft work is directed at defining a 90-seat turboprop that might enter service in 2025.

AgustaWestland and Airbus Helicopters will each lead a rotorcraft project culminating in flying a demonstrator. AgustaWestland’s endeavor will be a next-generation tiltrotor. The Italian manufacturer is focusing its efforts on a 20-seater twice the size of the AW609. It will use new airframe materials but off-the-shelf engines.

Airbus Helicopters, meanwhile, will lead the design of a compound rotorcraft demonstrator dubbed LifeRCraft (Low Impact Fast & Efficient RotorCraft). Preliminary studies of the architecture and specifications will start this year, with development and testing of components and subsystems envisioned in the 2016 to 2018 time frame. Flight-testing could start in early 2019.

“This will position the European industry for the potential development of a commercial aircraft based on this concept, with reduced risk before a go/no-go decision is made,” said Tomasz Krysinski, Airbus Helicopters’ v-p for research and innovation. The LifeRCraft architecture combines a main rotor for vertical takeoff and landing, fixed wings for energy-efficient lift and open propellers for speed. The company will use experience gained on its X3 compound demonstrator between 2010 and 2013.

As a private-public partnership, Clean Sky 2 is being funded by the EC (40 percent) and industry (60 percent). Starting this year, it is slated to end in 2024 and thus overlaps Clean Sky, which concludes in 2017.