Material benefits

Rolls-Royce may be quite late down the composites path, but the UK engine maker is now firmly behind a project to develop fan blades using non-metalic materials. For our cover story this week, Andrew Doyle has spoken to the company’s senior engineers about their work, including on the Trent 1000-based advanced lightweight low-pressure system (ALPS) demonstrator. Down the line, the carbon titanium blade technology could find its way onto an open-rotor engine, another long-term project being worked on in Derby.

Elsewhere in our commercial engines package, Stephen Trimble and Andrew Doyle look at work on both sides of the Atlantic to develop the first production open-rotor engines. Until now, any promise of extra efficiency has been wiped out by higher noise, something that killed open-rotor research 25 years ago. But new work by GE, NASA and the FAA shows signs that a noise-compliant open-rotor engine may be feasible. Meanwhile, Snecma, partner with GE in the CFM venture, is conducting its own research into open-rotor propulsion. We examine what the outcome of that might be for the market in the medium-term.

We also visit MTU in Munich. The company may not make its own engines, but it is a valued technology partner of both Pratt & Whitney and GE and has a key – and much increased – role in P&W’s geared turbofan engine for Airbus, Bombardier and Mitsubishi narrowbodies and regional airliners.

In a packed news section, we find out why Airbus is hailing its A350 as “mature” and hopes to have the -900 variant certificated by the third quarter, and also how the Toulouse manufacturer is getting closer to a decision on the A330′s future.  Also, Airbus’s latest A380 customer, leasing company Amedeo, thinks the airframer has been marketing its superjumbo wrongly and would sell more if it did not allow customers to adapt the interior so much and positioned it more as a large-capacity workhorse, carrying 600-plus passengers.

In other news: P&W is planning an upgrade for the PW1100G engine for the Airbus A320neo family, Embraer remains bullish on the E2 next-generation regional jet schedule and Boeing launches a push to sell more Super Hornets.

In a special business aviation report, we look at how the industry may be finally turning a corner, based on GAMA figures which show the first uptick in business jet shipments in six years. But it is large cabin, long-range jets – the strongest segment throughout the downturn – that continue to lead the way.

Meanwhile, we look at the future for ILFC, following its purchase by AerCap.

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