Montréal, Québec, is considered one of the world’s leading aerospace centers—along with Seattle and Toulouse—and is home to key aerospace OEMs, suppliers, educational institutions, international organizations, and research centers. This month, it will also be home to one of the world’s premier aerospace technical events, the SAE 2013 AeroTech Congress & Exhibition, taking place Sept. 24-26 at the Palais des congres de Montréal.
According to Aéro Montréal, the Greater Montréal region has the second-largest density of aerospace jobs in the world, with one person in 96 working in a job related to the aerospace sector. Bombardier, host company for the SAE 2013 AeroTech Congress & Exhibition, was ranked last year by the Globe and Mail as the largest employer in all of Québec, which is home to an estimated 215 aerospace companies.
Since 1989, Bombardier Aerospace has launched 30 new aircraft programs, making it one of the world’s most prolific generators of advanced aircraft technologies and products. One of the primary individuals responsible for determining the type of airplanes to be brought to market in the future is Fassi Kafyeke, Director of Strategic Technology, Bombardier Aerospace.
“I’m responsible for the budget and schedule of all the strategic technology projects in the company and delivering them to a sufficiently high technology readiness level for production on upcoming aircraft,” Kafyeke said.
Along with Francois Caza, Vice President and Chief Engineer, Engineering, Bombardier Aerospace, Kafyeke will be serving as AeroTech General Committee Chairs for this year’s AeroTech. Aerospace Engineering Assistant Editor Matthew Monaghan recently spoke with Kafyeke about this year’s event and some of the emerging trends in the aerospace industry.
You began your career at Bombardier in CFD and aerodynamics; how important of a role do you see those technologies playing in future aircraft?
In the past few years, there’s been a lot of progress in systems in terms of avionics, more-electric aircraft systems, structures particularly with composites and advanced metallics, and a lot of manufacturing method improvements. But then when you look at the future and try to figure out where airplanes should be, how much more efficient they should be in 2050 compared to today, you find out that, yes, we can continue improving systems and structures, but to get there we also have to improve the configurations of the airplanes in terms of aerodynamics. There’s been a lot of improvement in the past with winglets, with swept wings, transonic wings, supercritical wings, but now you’re going to see also a lot of development in aerodynamics in the coming years.
What is the importance of the 2050 time frame?
For local time frame, you look between 2020-2025, but the 2050 is symbolic because of all the talk about the environmental performance evaluation. One of the biggest drivers is the effect of aviation on climate change, and so the industry has come together as a whole and promised that by 2050 the fleet of airplanes in the world, through its goals of 5% per year, will put into the atmosphere half the carbon that we are putting out now, 50% less by 2050. There are several ways we can get there. One of them is technology improvement, and to get that the industry needs about 1.5-2% per-year improvement in performance due to technology, so about 45% performance improvement by 2050 compared to today.
The AeroTech theme for this year is “Aviation Leadership for a Sustainable Future,” what are the key aspects in terms of achieving sustainability?
The biggest driver for innovation in aviation right now is the sustainability of the industry. There are many parts, but in terms of aviation there are three things. One is typically the nuisance in terms of noise. Then the emissions in terms of climate change but also local air quality near the airports, and also environment inside the airplane for the passengers. The third thing is sustainability in terms of recycling of aircraft at the end of life.
What were some of the goals outlined by Bombardier when taking on the role of AeroTech host company?
Conferences like this are a learning activity. The idea is that we learn from each other, and then by learning from what everybody is doing, we can all advance faster. We will be looking forward to getting our own specialists to lay out what we are doing, which direction we are taking, inviting comments, and then getting all those lessons and integrating all those lessons in our plans.
Collaboration is always a major focus at the automotive World Congress; is that a major emphasis in the aerospace industry as well?
The future of research in aerospace is collaborative research because the airplanes are getting very sophisticated. The airplane projects are becoming very expensive, so you cannot afford to take risks anymore with new technology. The most efficient way to develop technology nowadays is collaboratively because we don’t have a monopoly of ideas and also you can get tremendous synergies by teaming up with various other players.
What type of role do you see sophisticated materials playing in future aircraft?
We are trying to use materials that are lighter, that don’t corrode as fast, and are tougher to fatigue, so that overall you can make the airplane lighter, and also make the airplanes more affordable as well. So you’re looking for things that can be manufactured easily. There are still big parts of airplanes that are metallic, both aluminum alloys. We are looking into aluminum lithiums; we are looking at improved aluminum alloys on all these fronts. We are looking at titanium for some part of the airplane and how to form titanium better and make this to real shape in one shot. Then you are looking at the whole area of composite materials, which have been around for secondary structures in commercial aviation for many years, but are now becoming prevalent in commercial aviation on primary structures. There are still a lot of things to learn, but composite materials have the potential to get the airplanes to become lighter in the future. We are also looking at all the materials that make up the interior of airplanes, the seats, the panels, etc.
What are some other technology trends you see beginning to take shape?
In materials, of course, the trend is composite materials. In systems, the trend is toward more electric aircraft, moving away from pneumatic and hydraulic actuations and going to all-electric actuations. And then in avionics, there is the big trend of moving from radar-controlled aerospace to satellite managed aerospace, so that we can improve the safety of the separation between airplanes and we can increase the throughput in the airways. Then there’s a trend of less conventional aircraft configurations, which can be made easier by composite materials. Airplanes are typically a tube because it’s easy to make a family of airplanes, you just lengthen your tube; it’s easy to manufacture. But now you can make the molds a different shape, and it’s the same price. Therefore the airplanes made of composite may come to have shapes that are a little bit more complex but at the same cost to build.
What do you see as the significance of the event being held in Montreal?
The world is going to discover that Montreal is a big aerospace city. Montreal is the only place where you can build an entire airplane within 30 km of the center. You have aircraft makers like Bombardier, helicopter makers like Bell Helicopter, engine makers like Pratt & Whitney and Rolls-Royce, systems makers, CAE, etc. The world will discover that Montreal is full of companies involved in the aerospace industry.