EU Pushes To Expand CleanSky Partner Network

 - May 16, 2011, 8:21 AM

The European Union (EU) is trying to attract more small- and medium-size enterprises to participate in its long-running CleanSky joint technology program. With public funds available to back research-and-development work aimed at reducing the environmental impact of air transport, it hopes to spread such support beyond major aerospace firms. Those companies, in turn, want to spread the risk of involvement in some of the lower-tier work.

To kick off the initiative, EU officials held a conference for prospective new partners in Toulouse, France, on January 31. They plan to hold a similar event in Spain in March, followed by presentations in Portugal and several other European states over the coming months.

CleanSky director Eric Dautriat told AIN that the far-reaching program is on track to achieve its objectives by 2017. The EU and the aerospace industry are providing more than $1 billion to develop technology aimed at reducing noise, as well as carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions by more than 50 percent compared with levels recorded in 2000.

Engine technology obviously represents a key component of CleanSky. Dautriat told the press that he expects the first flight test of a geared open-rotor engine to occur by 2015 as part of the sustainable and green engine (SAGE) project–one of CleanSky’s six integrated-technology demonstrator programs.

SAGE encompasses five segments, starting with SAGE-1 and SAGE-2, led by Rolls-Royce and Snecma. SAGE-1 and SAGE-2 concentrate on developing two different geared open-rotor engine designs for short- and medium-haul aircraft. Project leaders hope that such engines could eventually yield fuel savings of up to 25 percent compared with contemporary turbofans.

Rolls-Royce also leads SAGE-3, the segment dedicated to the development of an environmentally friendly large turbofan for widebody airliners.

Finally, MTU and Turbomeca carry responsibility for the SAGE-4 and SAGE-5 initiatives, meant to speed development of a geared turbofan engine, respectively, for airliners and an advanced turboshaft for helicopters. Germany’s MTU has partnered in the geared turbofan development with Pratt & Whitney since 2006.

Dautriat hopes to see a ground demonstration of MTU’s geared turbofan demonstrator in 2013 and of the SAGE-5 turboshaft a year later. Engineers will perform ground tests on all of the SAGE engine demonstrators, apart from the SAGE-1 and -2 open-rotor designs.

“The only flight test is of the open rotor, because these engines have a new architecture regarding the engine, and for its installation on the aircraft,” added Dautriat. “The reason why ground tests of the other engine designs are being performed is because the remit of the overall CleanSky effort is to prove that clean engine technologies can be folded into the future engines designed and produced by the established engine manufacturers,” he concluded.