Countdown to #aerodays2015: Skills for Breakthroughs

With 1 week to go until London hosts #aerodays2015 – Europe’s flagship event for aviation research and innovation – ADS’ final blog in the countdown to the event highlights the theme of ‘Skills for Breakthroughs’.

The theme will see 6 technical sessions take place across 3 days – with the focus not only on how to develop the future skills required to remain competitive, but also the best way to cultivate the ideas and disruptive technologies to offer a step change in how the aviation industry operates.

Ahead of the event, ADS has picked out two exciting projects which could provide unique solutions to two important challenges facing the aviation industry:

  • The Endless Runway:

With the demand for aviation set to grow significantly over the next 20 years, the debate around how to sustainably increase airport capacity in Europe and across the world to fulfill this demand, is set to continue. The Endless Runway  is an EU project seeking to tackle the issue of capacity and air traffic management, by developing a continuous, circular runway which can operate flexibly, and through changing weather conditions.

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Currently, real capacity at airports is usually lower than declared capacity due to weather restrictions and dependencies between runways. A circular runway makes it possible to let an aircraft operate always at landing and take-off with headwind. This can help manage the airspace around airports more effectively, optimise the routes and trajectory of aircraft, and allow aircraft to take off where crosswind is at a minimum. This could drastically alternate the need for aircraft to fly in sequence due to wake turbulence, and help to eliminate the need for continuous expansion of straight runways.

Attendees can hear more about this project during Day 2 of the event, at technical session 5E.

  • The Self-Healing Aircraft:

Continuous Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) of aircraft can be a costly expense for airline operators. Currently, more than 33% of an average aircraft’s life cycle cost is invested in inspection and repair. In order to help airlines improve on this, the ALAMSA project is seeking to develop thermo-reversible self-healing materials, and optimise a new advanced concept for smart inspection and maintenance by employing nonlinear elastic wave spectroscopy technology.

If successful, the project would essentially mean that areas of high tolerance and where maintenance is needed, can effectively heal themselves. If a material was cracked or dented, the resin inside the material could ‘bleed’, and then harden as it heats up to repair the crack – or even bleed certain colours to show maintenance workers where the damage is located. This could be essential where composite material is used, as it can be difficult to spot damage.

Whilst the full and detailed application of this technology is yet to be determined, it could provide a game changer in how aircraft are both manufactured and maintained.

Underpinning these ideas is the engineering and creative skills required to develop new solutions to complex problems. The next generation of scientists and engineers is critical to ensure the Aerospace and Aviation industry remains competitive. Recognition through such initiatives as the Young Researcher award – set to be presented on the final day of aerodays2015 – will help to ensure those young people with an interest in the sector are encouraged to stay in, and go far.