A €400 million ($522 million) project to design and manufacture a revolutionary active wing could be snared by red tape. The project is one of the most high-profile victims of a tangle threatening the European Union's Clean Sky initiative to develop a new generation of environmentally friendly aviation technology.
Just a week after Airbus chief executive Tom Enders warned that the €1.6 billion, seven-year Clean Sky scheme faces failure unless the European Commission streamlines rules blocking its half of the funding, Paul Phillips of Airbus said industry partners in the Smart Fixed Wing Aircraft project are "exploring options to replan" the project and hope to present those ideas to the EC's research directorate in June.
Speaking at the Royal Aeronautical Society's Facing Up To The Future conference, Philips said the project faced "major constraints caused by the Clean Sky funding schedule". His concerns echoed those of Enders, who noted that: "Industry has been waiting to invest its €800 million for two years, but commission funding is still delayed."
The Smart Fixed Wing Aircraft project hopes to develop active wing and innovative airframe concepts that control loads and air flow to reduce drag and structural mass, aimed in part at reducing fuel consumption and noise. It represents the second largest slice of total Clean Sky budget is being co-led by Airbus and Saab, which have earmarked 50% of that budget with the remainder equally divided between academic and small- and medium-sized enterprises.
A high-speed flight demonstrator will be developed for large-scale flight testing of passive and active flow and loads control solutions on all new innovative wing concepts to validate low drag solutions at representative Mach and Reynolds Numbers. Phillips reports that an Airbus A340 with modified wing has been downselected as the "preferred and best option" here.
A low-speed flight demonstrator aimed at validating a high-lift solution to support and/or enable innovative wing low drag concept on either a Dassault Falcon or an Airbus A320 - the preferred candidate - will be decided next year.
Clean Sky industrialist Ric Parker, who is Rolls-Royce's research and technology director, admitted to frustration at the delay: "The money is allocated, the money is there, the problem has been getting Clean Sky fully autonomous, being run by the industry group."
Sources say that progress is being made and point to the recent as-yet undisclosed appointment of an executive director for the Clean Sky initiative, a French aerospace executive who was selected from three shortlisted candidates.