Across the Pond #3: Fuel-Cell Planes and More VLJs

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Across The Pond

Following last month's item on Hjelcmo Oil's green developments, I'm delighted to report even more eco-friendly innovation from the east side of the Atlantic. A British-designed and -built, non-combusting, hydrogen fuel-cell is set to power a manned light aircraft. Tests begin in Europe later this year.

Boeing Fuel-Cell Demonstration Aircraft

The cell will power a highly modified, two-seat, Diamond Dimona motor-glider. The emission-free aircraft is slated to cruise at around 62 mph. Madrid-based Boeing Research and Technology Europe (BR&TE), part of Boeing's famous "Phantom Works" R&D department, is running the project. The aircraft uses a proton-exchange membrane (PEM) fuel-cell/lithium-ion battery hybrid system to power an electric motor, which is coupled to a conventional propeller. The cell powers the entire cruise phase, and is only supported by the lightweight lithium-ion batteries during takeoff and climb. The flight tests will take place in Spain later this year. The PEM system was designed and built by U.K. firm Intelligent Energy, which also created a fuel-cell-powered motorbike.

EC Gets To Grips With GA

And as if all this positive news hasn't had you reaching for the smelling salts already, there's more to come. The European Commission has finally published a discussion paper on GA in Europe, 12 months after a meeting in Brussels with the European Air Transport Commissioner Daniel Calleja Crespo instigated by four AOPA heads: IAOPA president Phil Boyer, German managing director Dr. Michael Erb, U.K. CEO Martin Robinson and IAOPA secretary John Sheehan. AOPA pointed out the discrepancies between GA in Europe and its U.S. counterpart. AOPA estimates that GA in the U.S. is worth US$103 billion, a good 60 to 80 percent more than European estimates.

Other numbers of significance flagged up in the paper are 90,000 pilots engaged in "private powered flying" in Europe and 20,000 private powered aircraft flying between three and four million hours a year. There are 40,000 microlight pilots, 90,000 glider pilots and 22,000 gliders, 115,000 hang glider and paraglider pilots, 120,000 parachutists and 5,300 balloon and airship pilots. Business aviation is growing exponentially and the paper acknowledges the value of flight training to the entire aviation industry. There are also concerns that there are grey areas between commercial and business aviation. The document also highlights some of the challenges GA encounters, such as access to airfields and airspace, excessive provisions of the Joint Aviation Regulation (JARs) and environmental issues.

IAOPA Europe is calling for transparency from the regulators, flexibility in imposing regulations and accountability from the administrators. Full text is available on the IAOPA Europe website, which also carries several useful articles on regulatory and other issues.

Green Light For Grob

Grob spn Light Jet

Heartening news, too, from Grob Aerospace. The spn program is airborne again after last year's fatal crash temporarily stopped development and the aircraft will participate in a flying display at AERO Friedrichshafen. The company will demonstrate spn (D-CSPN) Apr. 19 and 20. The manufacturer's debut at the Lake Constance event marks its first public appearance since resuming flying on Feb. 23, putting the flight test program of the industry's first all-composite light jet back on track.

The spn light jet ceased flying temporarily after the second spn test aircraft (D-GSP) crashed on Nov. 29 last year, killing its pilot. In agreement with the Federal Office of Civil Aviation (LBA), the flight test program resumed after completing a 300-hour maintenance check, which was combined with a thorough inspection of the entire aircraft. Prior to last year's fatal crash, the aircraft had logged some 294 flight hours and 454 cycles. D-CSPN is now continuing the flight test program with specific focus on systems and performance.

The third spn test aircraft will shortly join the program and is scheduled to fly in the second quarter of 2007. Grob Aerospace previously announced that a further two additional spns will be built at its Tussenhausen-Mattsies facilities, to join the first test program. The fourth aircraft, which will join the flight test program in early fall 2007, will be a fully conforming test aircraft, together with the first series production aircraft. Grob Aerospace is on course for European EASA certification during the first quarter of 2008, with U.S. FAA certification following in the second quarter.

Diamond's Super Star DA50 Takes To The Skies

Diamond DA50 Super Star

Proving all that glitters is not gold, Diamond Aircraft hit the headlines again on April 4, when its spanking-new, single-engine, DA50 Super Star flew for the very first time in Wiener Neustadt, Austria. This is a remarkable feat, as the aircraft has gone from design to flying reality in under 11 months. Christian Dries, CEO and owner of Diamond Aircraft flew as pilot in command with Soeren Pedersen, Director of Sales, as chief test pilot. The DA50 Super Star has a MTOW of 1,660 kg (3,670 lbs) and is equipped with a Teledyne Continental TSIOF-550J engine, rated at 350+ hp, with FADEC control and twin turbo-chargers.

Mr. Dries said, "The DA50 Super Star will surely be a big hit, with powerplants including the 350-hp big bore as well as turbo-diesel engine options. I have a team that is unmatched in general aviation manufacturing. I know that they design and build the safest aircraft in the world. We have planned an aggressive development and certification schedule with production start no later than January 2008."

Very Light Jets Workshop

Talking of regulations, the European Organization for the Safety of Air Navigation -- EUROCONTROL -- is organizing a very light jet (VLJ) workshop aimed at providing information on the current VLJ projects, their performance/development status/timeframe and target market, at providing a commercial feasibility insight from a European perspective, estimating the impact of VLJ operations on European airspace and airports and discussing issues related to the regulation and charging. Invitees include: (I quote) national authorities (civil and military), air navigation service providers (civil and military), airport operators, international organizations, airspace users organization, commercial aircraft operators community, general aviation community, VLJ manufacturers and aviation press. I'll report back to you on this.

On that note, I had a request from a reader as to where he could go to get involved in standing up for GA in Europe. Apart from IAOPA, another good starting point is the General Aviation Awareness Council.

Grand Designs

Fusion Man

No, he's not a participant on Jackass, but here in Europe we've produced our very own oddball daredevil. Yves Rossy jumps out of aircraft with four jet engines strapped to his "wings." The idea is he'll stay airborne 'till his fuel runs out. Rossy, or "Fusion Man" as he calls himself, was due to make his maiden flight in Geneva last month, but was grounded due to inclement weather. His future plans include crossing the Grand Canyon and jumping out of a hot air balloon.

EBACE 2007

If you fancy seeing him in action and taking in some more serious news too, you could always stay on in Switzerland an extra couple days for another event taking place in Geneva between May 22-24. The European Business Aviation Conference and Exhibition (EBACE) is the place in Europe where business aviation gets business done. All the biggest European business aviation news is announced at this show, including aviation purchases and new products. Close to 10,000 attendees from Europe and beyond will rock up to Geneva this week, in a show that has mushroomed since its debut in 2001.

No club-flying news this month, thanks to me being in Brazil with those kind folks at Embraer. However, look out for reports on the exciting new Phenom developments. Club news is back next time (with prices as requested).

For more aviation news and information from Europe, read the rest Liz Moscrop's columns.