Dominic Perry is the Deputy Editor of Flight International Magazine, a weekly magazine for the global aerospace industry, that provides up-to-date technical and operational information from general aviation, business aviation and technology sectors. Flight International delivers intelligence, analysis and insight to drive strategies of leading aviation companies, enabling them to generate growth, find new opportunities and make informed investment decisions.
To provide our readers with a unique perspective of the rotorcraft industry, we spoke with Dominic to get his thoughts on recent aviation technology launches, trends and forthcoming developments.
What have been the most significant advances in aviation technology over the past five years?
Technology advances have mainly focused on the widening adoption of lightweight composites in airframes together with new materials that enable aero engines to operate safely at higher temperatures and pressures, with the overall aim of boosting fuel efficiency. That increased use of composites has also made its presence felt in the rotorcraft segment, where all the major manufacturers are adopting the technology to some greater or lesser extent. Propulsive efficiency is also improving – both in terms of engines and rotor blade design – to reduce fuel burn and cut noise. And cockpits are increasingly becoming the home to more sophisticated avionics and automated systems as the airframers work make safety a number one priority.
How do Flight Global use data insights to the benefit of aviation professionals?
Flight Global’s data insights are used by OEMs, MROs and aftermarket suppliers to gain a deep understanding of fleet trends, which in turn enables them to plan their strategic investments in new product development and service offerings and ultimately grow their most profitable revenue streams. Meanwhile, the group’s values and deals data is used as the benchmark for banks and leasing companies trading all types of commercial airliners, business jets and helicopters. Our team of Flight Ascend consultants also use this data as the basis for their advisory and valuations services to the industry.
Can you identify any forthcoming trends in aviation technology?
There is unrelenting pressure to further reduce the environmental impact of aviation, with noise remaining a particular for focus for the helicopter industry. Most manufacturers are agreed that within the confines of the current architecture, there are only incremental 1% or 2% gains on noise or fuel burn to be made from things like aerodynamic clean-ups. However, find 10 little steps and suddenly there’s dramatic overall improvement. The next-generation of engines – which will benefit from the trickle-down of technology from commercial, fixed-wing aviation – also appear likely to deliver significant cuts in fuel consumption. And the other big topic for the future is speed, although whether that will be delivered through a tiltrotor or compound helicopter depends very much on the manufacturer.
How do you see innovation and aviation technology developing over the next five years?
Additive manufacturing – also known as ‘3D printing’ – will progressively transform aerospace production, enabling lightweight and more complicated parts to be produced at lower cost. The next five years will also see a rapid increase in unmanned air vehicle operations, particularly in the military and para-public sectors. Both these factors have the potential to influence the rotorcraft sector, although the latter promises to be more of a curse than a blessing.
What potential concerns do you have for the rotorcraft industry in the next five years?
Safety should top the list of everyone’s concerns. A number of high-profile crashes in recent years – particularly in the offshore segment – is a worrying trend. Although there has been great progress and collaboration, it seems that more needs to be done – and soon. The continued depressed market for offshore oil and gas transportation is also a concern; there is the very real risk of a great deal of unwanted inventory skewing the second-hand market as operators slim down. Elsewhere, a great deal appears to be riding on China as an engine for growth – if that market fails to take off, then there may be problems for some.