First production applications could be realised within five years, possibly on A380

Airbus has begun the validation phase of its AWIATOR aerodynamic technology demonstrator programme and hopes to realise production applications in the second half of the decade.

AWIATOR - aircraft wing with advanced technology operation - is one of several research and development programmes that Airbus is undertaking which are partly funded by the European Commission as part of the Fifth Framework programme for R&D.

Focused on reducing aircraft wake, drag, noise and fuel consumption, it brings together 23 European manufacturers, universities and research institutes, as well as Israel Aircraft Industries (Flight International, 9-15 July 2002). Airbus executive vice-president engineering Alain Garcia says that the manufacturer is providing around 64% of the R&D programme's total budget of €80 million ($87 million). Fifty per cent of Airbus's investment will be reimbursed by the EC.

Garcia says that following input from divisions in France, Germany and the UK, the three-year validation process to examine integrative aspects of the proposed concepts is under way. "Tests will involve mapping aircraft performance at low and high speeds," he says, using Airbus's development A340-300 aircraft. Garcia says that ideas include "large winglets; nose-mounted turbulence sensors which are being looked at for the A380; wake vortex devices; mini trailing-edge devices to further improve the efficiency of the flaps; and sub-boundary layer vortex generators and optimised inner airbrakes to improve efficiency without diluting the air flow to the horizontal stabiliser".

The target is to reduce drag by 5-7% while cutting fuel consumption by 2%. Garcia says that the A380 could be the first to benefit from AWIATOR, as initial applications on the product line are expected within three to five years.

Meanwhile, testing of Tango (technology application to the near term business goals and objectives) - another partly EC-funded programme - is under way. The €85 million scheme, of which Airbus is providing €50 million, is studying composite and advanced material applications in the centre wing box and fuselage. The wing box test article was delivered to Airbus's test centre in April, where the manufacture, drilling and bolting of very thick composite parts is being investigated.

Source: Flight International