Paris Air Show

SAE Working on Electric Airplane Standards

 - June 20, 2017, 10:11 AM
Electric aircraft such as the Siemens Extra 330 LE at the Paris Air Show are generating high levels of interest in the aviation community. (Photo: Mark Wagner)

SAE (Hall 6 Stand A47), the professional engineering association, is here at the Paris Air Show highlighting its historical mission of setting technical standards for the aerospace industry (among others) and promoting innovation through industry consensus. David Alexander, director of Aerospace Standards, noted SAE established the first technical standard for aviation—threading specifications for interchangeable spark plugs—one century ago in 1917. “Since then the portfolio of standards has grown to more than 9,000 that our committees [comprised of subject matter experts from industry and government] maintain,” Alexander said. SAE’s work ensures all types of parts and equipment are designed to perform safely and properly, and common specifications are adopted by consensus, promoting both innovation and utility. In addition to its AS (Aerospace Standards), SAE’s AMS (Aerospace Materials Specifications), ARP (Aerospace Recommended Practices) and AIR (Aerospace Information Reports) are recognized throughout the world.

Today, standards supporting the more electric airplane (MEA), as well as on digital systems, data interoperability and prognostics for aircraft health management are being formulated. These will come into play increasingly as the industry seeks to replace hydraulic, pneumatic and mechanical systems with electrically powered ones. SAE has created draft standards for electromechanical actuators, and issued committee reports on electric braking systems. Alexander noted SAE’s standards are typically performance based, providing leeway in achieving the standards’ intent, rather than prescriptive standards that mandate how the industry applies the rules.

But how does the organization succeed in gaining industry acceptance?

“The beauty of it is when you get everyone around the world—competitors, customers, suppliers—working together on true consensus standards everyone can use, and sharing information, it becomes a very powerful [unifying platform]," Alexander said.

Today SAE has about 145,000 members, and about 11,000 on its aerospace standards committee. Here at Le Bourget, the society is eager to meet with attendees who are, or want to be, a part of its legacy of progress. “It’s becoming more global by the day,” Alexander said of SAE.

This September, SAE’s Aerotech Congress & Exhibition will be held in Forth Worth, Texas, under the theme of “Technology Unlocking the Future.”