AERO Friedrichshafen is Europe’s largest general aviation expo. Held from 5-8 April, this year was the show’s 25th anniversary and it was bigger and better than ever.
Two new attendance records were set: 707 exhibitors and 34,200 trade visitors over the four days. It’s worth noting that Sun ‘n Fun held in Florida, USA, also reported record numbers, indicating that worldwide, lighter general aviation appears to be healthy.
AERO Friedrichshafen first began in 1977 with just 14 exhibitors presenting gliders and motor gliders as part of a motorsports exhibition. These days, the only flying machines that aren’t represented are military aircraft and large airliners. The success of the exhibition has depended largely on the fact that it is specifically tailored to the needs of general aviation.
The high cost of general aviation and the relative scarcity of avgas has led to a focus on alternative power for aircraft engines. Thus, according to many experts, the AERO Friedrichshafen has become the “driver of innovation for general aviation.” Here are some of the key displays that features at AERO 2017:
Electric aircraft have featured strongly at AERO over the past few years, with the Siemens powered Magnus Aircraft e-Fusion and Extra 330 LE being recent unveilings, and returning this year.
A new arrival was Hangar 55, a new Swiss company with financial support from the Hamilton watch company, which introduced the electric Silence Twister aerobatic aircraft. Also equipped with a prototype Siemens electric motor, this one putting out around 90 horsepower, and with Kokam battery cells from Korea, the plane delivers 20 minutes of smooth – and quiet – aerobatics. It is certified for +6 and -4 G aerobatics.
A new generation of batteries will bring greater endurance, says Hangar 55, and the company hopes to use the electric Twister this year in the Red Bull Air Race as an exhibition.
Sporting a snazzy gold colour scheme, Diamond’s DA50-V prototype made its public debut at AERO, just two weeks after its maiden flight, and was the key attraction on the Diamond stand. Diamond claims it will be “the most modern, most efficient single-engine piston aircraft with the widest body and highest payload in its class.”
Burning just 25.8 litres per hour of Jet A-1 at 50% power, the 260-hp SAFRAN/SMA diesel gives the DA50-V a maximum speed of 173 kt TAS in testing and a range of 1,020 nm. Maximum takeoff weight is 1,800 kg, allowing a payload of 570 kg.
Diamond says the DA50’s cabin is wide, comfortable and luxurious. The cockpit is fitted as with Garmin’s G1000 NXi and GFC700 autopilot as standard.
The DA50 will be available in three different variants: the four-seat 230 hp DA50-IV, the five-seat 260 hp DA50-V, and the seven-seat DA50-VII, which will come with a variety of engine options. Certification and start of serial production for the four- and five-seat models is expected in 2018 and the seven-seat version “soon thereafter.”
Diamond also announced that it was entering the helicopter market with the unveiling of the DART 280. The programme will provide a stepping-stone to a family of rotorcraft, company founder and chief executive Christian Dries says, including a hybrid-electric quad tiltrotor. Dries believes the four-seat DART 280 will fill a gap in the training and personal transport markets for a lightweight, affordable, easy-to-fly helicopter.
Pitched against the Robinson R44, the composite DART 280 is projected to have a maximum takeoff weight of 1,350 kg, a payload of 560 kg, energy absorbing retractable landing gear, a shrouded, electric tail rotor and a 280 hp, four-stroke jet-fuel engine. First flight is scheduled in about 18 months, leading to certification about 12 months after that.
Daher continues to tweak its TBM 900 family. The latest addition is the TBM 910, which made its first public appearance at this year’s AERO, having been granted FAA and EASA certification on 24 March.
Nicolas Chabbert of Daher said that demand is expected to increase for Daher’s turboprop family due to the European Union’s new regulatory approval for Commercial Air Transport operations using single-engine turboprops in instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) and at night.
The TBM 910 has the same range and performance as the TBM 900 but comes with two main differences: the new Garmin G1000NXi replaces the G1000, and cabin interior enhancements with new seat shapes and additional fittings, which are identical to the high-end TBM 930 version.
Tecnam launched two new MkII models at AERO 2017: the P2002 Sierra MkII and the P Twenty-Ten MkII.
The P2002 Sierra MkII has the new turbocharged and intercooled 135 hp Rotax 915 iS/ISC engine which maintains takeoff power up to “at least” 15,000 ft, and has increased the aircraft’s service ceiling to 23,000 ft.
Other improvements to the P2002 include a larger cabin with new ‘premium’ interior design, redesigned canopy with more headroom and a new locking mechanism that reduces noise levels, seats with extra fore-and-aft adjustment, upgraded avionics, and several options for exterior paint colours and interior fabrics.
The P Twenty-Ten MkII comes with a more powerful 215 hp Lycoming IO-390 engine equipped with a variable pitch prop, tuned induction system, roller tappets and ‘Slick Start’ ignition, and again is available with Garmin’s G1000NXi.
But Tecnam’s biggest news was the public debut of their 11-seater P2012 Traveller, which was unveiled in 2012. The P2012 prototype is currently engaged in a test flight programme. The aircraft is equipped with the G1000 NXi flightdeck and is powered by two 375 hp Lycoming piston engines. Tecnam plans to deliver between 25 and 35 P2012s in 2019.
The P2012 is available in a number of configurations including commuter, VIP, air ambulance, skydiving, cargo and surveillance. Certification is scheduled for the end of 2018.
Blackshape launched the Bk160 Gabriél, a high performance two-seat tandem, low wing, military-trainer looking aircraft in the EASA CS-VLA certification category. Powered by a 160-hp Lycoming IO-320, the Gabriel is capable of 164 KTAS at sea level, making it the fastest in its category, and has an endurance of just over three hours.
It has a maximum takeoff weight of 750 kg and a useful load of 220 kg. Construction is of the same pre-impregnated carbon-fibre as Blackshape’s smaller BK100 Prime. Blackshape is targeting customers who simply want to get somewhere fast, and flying schools that want to offer more advanced training.
After six years of development, the German start-up e-volo premiered the first series model of its passenger multicopter, the Volocopter 2X, an electric, vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft capable of carrying two passengers.
The 2X is the evolution of the VC200 prototype towards everyday use. It has been developed for approval as an ultralight aircraft and should receive ‘Multicopter’ type certification under the new German UL category in 2018. Although said to be simple to fly, thanks to its automatic height and position control, you will need a Sport Pilot Licence (SPL) for multicopters.
The Volocopter 2X is designed as a sport aircraft, as well as a demonstrator for future urban mobility systems. By 2018, the first Volocopter 2X models with special permit are set to be used as flying taxis in pilot projects.
The technology also allows for remote controlled and even autonomous flights. For the first flying taxi pilot projects, e-volo assumes the Volocopter 2X will still be pilot-controlled due to current regulations.
Future hopes for e-volo are to obtain a commercial registration for the Volocopter for transportation of passengers on commercial taxi flights, and the development of a four-seater Volocopter with international approval (EASA/FAA).