Farnborough Air Show

Diehl celebrates further prospects for growth

 - July 3, 2008, 5:53 AM

Diehl Aerospace, the product of a merger between two German companies, is celebrating its second anniversary this month and joining French group Thales
in a deal to acquire Airbus’ factory in Laupheim, Germany. The two companies were declared preferred bidders for the site on May 30.

Diehl is a cockpit-to-cabin systems provider with Thales being a minority partner, holding 49 percent of its equity. It employs 1,200 people and last year recorded sales of ?205 million ($316 million). It is headquartered at Überlingen, about 150 miles west of Munich, and has plants in Frankfurt, Nuremburg and Rostock.

On the civil side of its business, Diehl produces cockpit and display systems, primary and secondary flight controls, cabin and utility control systems and cabin lighting systems. On the military front, it produces a wide array of controls and displays, and various aircraft systems. Its corporate predecessors, Diehl Avionik Systeme and Diehl Luftfahrt Elektronick, played key roles in the development of the Eurofighter Typhoon, Tiger and NH-90 military platforms.

The new Airbus A400M military transport is a current showcase for Diehl Aerospace, which is supplying flight control and display systems, integrated modular avionics, end systems for AFDX aircraft data networks, as well as the door control and monitoring systems. Among the new equipment being developed for the complex European platform is the onboard airport navigation system which displays a digital moving map of the selected airport. It is particularly helpful to flight crews taxiing in low visibility or landing at unfamiliar airports.

Diehl Aerospace also is earning a high profile on today’s major new civil airliner programs–Airbus’ A380 and A350XWB, and Boeing’s 787.

On the A380, the company is the prime supplier for interior lighting, doors and the emergency slide management system, as well as for slat and flap controls. On the flight deck, Diehl and Thales provide the flight control unit, various controls and displays, a head-up display, the onboard airport navigation system and the stand-by navigation system. Their contributions to the avionics platform include the core processing and input/output module and the AFDX end systems.

In the A380’s double-decked cabins, Diehl provides advanced lighting, while Thales offers in-flight entertainment systems and connectivity for cabin communications systems. The company has also developed the super-large airliner’s electrical power generation system.

The company claims to have achieved a significant breakthrough with its integrated modular avionics concept for the A380, ensuring independence of operation between software and hardware, as well as in the management of applications, data processing and exchange and the partitioning of the various electronic components. These developments have resulted in reduced nonrecurring costs, standardized integration tools, reduced maintenance and fewer spares requirements.

The doors and slides management system developed by Diehl is a vital part of the safety function of the huge Airbus, which may eventually carry 800 passengers. The safety critical network system features local intelligence and autonomous emergency power in each passenger door, central monitoring, active distance measuring and electrical door actuation.

Next Up, the A350
According to Diehl, the success of its contributions to the A380 program have put it in a strong position to be a leading equipment supplier for the new A350XWB, which is due to enter service around 2014. The company has already won major contracts to supply various packages for the avionics suite, fuel controls and electrical systems.

In late May, Airbus also selected Diehl/Thales to provide the doors and slide control system. The partners say they are still in contention for other system selections such as the long-range airliner’s head-up displays, airport navigation systems, cockpit video package, flight control unit, integrated standby instrumentation and the slats and flaps control computer. On the rival Boeing 787, they have already secured about 70 percent of the workshare from the equivalent systems contracts.

Boeing’s 787, the first aircraft to be designed exclusively to use LED lights, is to feature Diehl’s latest advances in cabin lighting (see box). Meanwhile, Thales is supplying its power conversion system and its integrated standby flight displays, and so far has won more than 75 percent of the in-flight entertainment system selections for the new aircraft.

Under project coordinator Thales, Diehl Aerospace is one of 36 partners from 16 countries involved with the SCARLETT (derivation: scalable and reconfigurable electronics platforms and tools) program. The project also involves GE Aviation. Its objective is to define the distributed modular electronics that will fill the needs of the integrated modular avionics for next-generation aircraft.

Diehl is heavily involved under the leadership of Thales in Europe’s Clean Sky joint technology initiative, which involves fuel cells, batteries, green trajectories and missions development and demonstrations. The European Commission-backed research-and-development program has a budget of almost $2.5 billion over the next six years.  

Some Light Relief

Twenty years ago, aircraft passengers enjoyed illumination from the fluorescent tubes usually hidden within side paneling. Occasionally the lights flickered, and sometimes there was no light at all from a sidewall position. Mechanics usually would sort out the problem at the next turnaround.

Now technology is changing that. In the future, airlines may draw passengers’ attention to safety briefings using electronics. They might play a fanfare over the public address system, dim the lights and shine spotlights on the cabin crew making a safety presentation. A performance worthy of Broadway!

When Airbus introduced the A300-B2 in 1980, cabin lighting hardly played a role in the design of the passenger area, and not at all in the cockpit. It installed white light fluorescent tubes that could be dimmed. This was the norm for the next two decades, but with the arrival of the new-century cabins, designers began to understand that to improve the well being of passengers, they needed to put more thought into the creation of a cabin environment suitable for very long flights. By 2000, they introduced mood lighting and with the march into the new decade, the light-emitting diode (LED) became the norm.

Today, cabin lighting is a comprehensive system offering innovative technologies, low weight, low power consumption, flexible control, improved dimming functions, multiple colors, and very easy installation. The Boeing 787 is the first aircraft to employ the total package featuring LED lighting in a number of areas including entryways, lounges, bar locations, class dividers, seats, mini-suites and galleys plus special crew rest area bunks and the cockpit.

The experts at Diehl Aerospace believe that a blue mood-light works best during the first period of a flight, followed by brown for the meal, violet during the working period and a light brown for sleeping periods. Wake-up lighting is gradual.

Airbus A350XWB designers may take cabin lighting a stage further with highly customized special lighting effects including starry sky, rainbow and moving lights. The customer technology demonstration area in Diehl’s Nuremburg facility offers a panoply of possibilities enabling airlines to cost effectively customize their aircraft. According to the company, most U.S.-based airlines require fancy colors, while the Middle East and Far East carriers take a more conservative approach.

The packages offered by Diehl Aerospace include interior lighting and in-flight entertainment synchronization with music and cabin announcement audio systems.