Jean Botti's job is to see the future - and get Airbus there. That's no mean feat, especially when the future is all-electric airliners, but EADS's chief technology is convinced the route to that future runs through the two-seat tandem E-Fan technology demonstrator unveiled on Monday at Paris.

E-Fan - sporting the very appropriate registration F-WATT - has been in the works for eight months, will fly by year-end and should be in production within three years. It is designed for training, glider towing and acrobatics, but the job of integrating the airframe, lithium-polymer batteries and electric fan motors is preparing EADS for the far bigger task of marshalling its resources with those of Rolls-Royce, Siemens and other partners to create what Botti calls the "E-Airbus".

EADS innovation 


That aircraft, shown as a model in the EADS pavilion, is a 2050-timeframe concept featuring six electrically-powered fans, in two clusters of three on either side of the fuselage and fully integrated in the airframe to pull in boundary layer air flow for maximum propulsive and aerodynamic efficiency and low noise. As a serial hybrid, a single gas turbine generates electricity to charge batteries and drive the Rolls-Royce fan engines.

Botti is "very proud" of the partnership with Rolls-Royce on this Distributed Electrical Aerospace Propulsion (DEAP) project, but he just about gives off sparks when showing E-Fan.

All-carbonfibre, all-electric and running two variable-pitch fans, the E-Fan weighs just 500kg but packs 150kg of thrust, giving it the thrust-to-weight ratio of an A320.

The main landing gear wheels are chain-driven to provide extra thrust on take-off, to its 60kt (110km/h) rotation speed. The aircraft will cruise at 86kt and reach a maximum speed of 118kt, and fly for up to an hour before changing batteries.

EADS plans to make the aircraft in volume, and it getting lots of help from France's DGAC safety agency to devise a certification regime for electric aircraft.

The chief test pilot is Didier Esteyne of programme partner ACS, but Botti himself can't wait to get his hands on the stick: "I'll fly it, for sure!"

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Source: Flight Daily News