A 3D-printed, hybrid electric-powered, autonomous and supersonic jet – although unlikely – would perfectly symbolise the new technology on display at Le Bourget this year.

The boldly-named Boom announced 51 commitments for a Mach 2.2, 55-passenger airliner that does not exist. Start-ups joined the likes of Airbus and Boeing in a quest to exchange gas-fuelled thrust for electric power. And new 3D-printed parts and processes showed that the size and production limitations of that burgeoning technology are steadily being overcome.

Now is an exciting time to be in the aviation industry. As Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurs have pushed into the sector, the major OEMs seem to be on the defensive.

Not willing to lose talent to well-funded software barons, aerospace firms are rewriting marketing plans. Projects once pursued under proprietary-level secrecy are now openly discussed – even championed.

Ideas discarded 50 years ago are being exhumed by a new generation of engineers, armed with software, materials technologies and propulsion systems that could not have been dreamed of in the 1950s.

Overall, the ambitions are a good thing. The aviation industry needs to be challenged. But the OEMs should be warned: the fail-fast strategy may work on Silicon Valley’s lush balance sheets, but is likely to prove less appealing for shareholders in the industrials market.

Source: Flight International