A hot topic is "More Electric Aircraft" and the end of hydraulic actuation as we know it. Ken Maciver, TRW Aeronautical Systems' (Lucas Aerospace) executive vice-president and general manager, discusses the implications of TRW's acquisition of Lucas Aerospace, its Asian business and the company's contribution to future electric technologies. Interview by Steve Nichols.

Q. It has been 10 months since TRW acquired Lucas Aerospace. What has happened in that time?

A. Shortly after the acquisition of LucasVarity, TRW changed the Lucas Aerospace name to TRW Aeronautical Systems and put our business in a newly created division called TRW Aerospace and Information Systems Group, which contributes $6 billion to TRW's overall 1999 sales revenues of $17 billion. TRW Aeronautical Systems contributes $1.2 billion to the newly-formed division and is one of the top two vendors in all of its main product areas. It ranks No 5 among the worlds leading equipment suppliers and No 2 in Europe.

Q. TRW has been awarded a contract by Samsung of South Korea, to supply the power take-off (PTO) shafts for the new KTX-2 supersonic jet-trainer and light attack aircraft. Will this help you grow your business in Asia and are there any other applications in the pipeline?

A. TRW Aeronautical Systems already has customer support facilities in Singapore and Australia, joint ventures in Indonesia and China, and offices in Beijing, Hong Kong, Japan, and India.

We see growth in this region developing in two ways. First, as the airlines continue to increase their travel throughout Asia, we need to be in the region to support its original equipment. This means growing our customer support capability throughout the region to keep up with the growing travel demand.

The other area of growth comes through providing original equipment to Asian programs, such as the KTX-2. We are in negotiations on several other Asian programmes and will continue to pursue the OE market in this region.

Q. Looking at TRW products in particular, what significance will variable frequency power generation have on the future of large aircraft design?

A. As aircraft become "more electric" - incorporating, for example, more-electric flight controls - the electrical power requirements of the aircraft will increase. Our challenge is to provide the increased power without significantly increasing weight, thus complementing rather than countering the benefits gained from more-electric flight controls. Variable Frequency achieves this goal in that it removes system complexity by eliminating the hydromechanical constant speed drive required in conventional constant frequency systems. The result is that increased power output can be achieved with improved reliability and reduced weight and cost.

Q. What will be the significance of electrohydrostatic actuation (EHA) and electromechanical actuation (EMA) on future aircraft?

A. Conventional flight control actuation, known as fly-by-wire, is controlled electrically, but powered hydraulically. These systems rely on a complicated network of high-pressure hydraulic tubes running throughout the aircraft to supply the hydraulic pressure needed to move each control surface. The goal of power-by-wire is to eliminate the hydraulic connection by providing electrical power directly to the actuators.

The elimination of the hydraulic lines reduces the risk of flammable leaks and loss of power, thus enhancing survivability. Power-by-wire actuators are easily removed and replaced, thus enhancing maintainability and reducing aircraft ground service time. They also reduce aircraft weight.

Q. How confident are you that TRW's technology will be used on the A3XX and future military aircraft?

A. TRW has established the benefits of variable frequency electrical power generation and power-by-wire flight controls in the marketplace. We also have established a level of experience that we believe is unmatched by our competitors. Airbus has announced that variable frequency power generation and electro-hydrostatic actuators for flight control will be the baselines for the A3XX. Given our experience and system expertise, I believe we are very well positioned to win the programmes, such as the A3XX, where aircraft manufacturers have specified these technologies as baselines for their next generation aircraft.

Q. When do you think we will see the end of hydraulic components on commercial aircraft?

A. I anticipate the end of hydraulic technology as the primary aircraft power source in the next five years. Large new aircraft programmes and military programmes, both driven by the big primes, will be the vehicles for the introduction of more-electric solutions. But we are unlikely to see the end of hydraulic power altogether. Where hydraulic power is now the primary source of aircraft power, it will soon become the back-up source of power.

Q. Looking at the long term, what other areas of your work do you see being revolutionised?

A. As we move toward the "more electric aircraft" and smart components, we will also see an emergence in intelligent systems, which incorporate health monitoring in order to isolate faults and predict maintenance needs. A digital engine control system based on a distributed architecture is one example. Additionally, as air travel increases, we are constantly challenged to ensure we protect our environment. TRW is in a concerted effort to incorporate environment friendly materials into our products and eliminate beryllium, cadmium and lead.

Source: Flight Daily News