General Electric Aviation Systems (Hall 4 Stand B7) has long been a pioneer in the more-electric aircraft concept but now is finding that rising fuel prices are increasing the impetus for the technological shift. At the same time, the company’s expertise in flight management systems (FMS) is coming to the fore as part of the effort to improve air transport’s environmental performance by minimizing the amount of time aircraft spend in holding patterns around airports, burning Jet A.
“With the pressure to fly for less [both in terms of operating costs and environmental impact], the integration of complete electrical power systems for aircraft is now a very real need,” company president John Ferrie told AIN. “Fuel is now such a dominant number that any future aircraft is going to have to be optimized in terms of minimum energy usage.”
GE Aviation Systems (formerly Smiths Aerospace) has developed its four-dimensional FMS to allow aircraft to fly on minimal power direct to its descent path and avoid delays. The system can more accurately fly an aircraft between the waypoints on its flight plan and can be coupled to its engines to tap into its performance data.
The more-electric aircraft concept will not be fully realized until the next generation of narrowbody airliners come into production. Some aspects of this approach to power distribution and control have been applied to some business jet components and systems but it is not yet fully optimized.
Middle River Aircraft Systems recently became part of the Aviation Systems portfolio after GE acquired the U.S. thrust reverser and nacelle specialist. Ferrie said that this addition will create new opportunities for integrating aircraft electric power systems, when combined with its existing expertise in actuation and the engine capability of its GE parent.
Ferrie acknowledged his disappointment that GE Aviation Systems has not secured workshare on Airbus’s new A350 widebody airliner development. However, it is now bidding for work on new business jet programs. In fact, on Monday Gulfstream selected GE for the secondary power distribution system and APU door actuation system on the new G650.
In his view, airlines are now “desperate” to take delivery of new, more efficient aircraft to allow them to combat rising operating costs.