Opinion: Aeronautical innovation during times of adversity

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Over the last few months the world around us has been turned upside down by the Coronavirus pandemic. Only recently have we been able to return to something approaching normality in our daily lives.

ATI’s reader survey about the pandemic reveals that the aerospace testing sector has managed Covid-19 well so far. Most importantly, two thirds of our readers say the mood in their business is optimistic or at least resilient. Delays to projects and work because of the virus are being kept to a minimum. Almost 40% of readers think that things will be back to normal at their companies within a year.

Our reader survey confirms reports from companies and aerospace trade associations, which say that although production of aircraft has slowed, remarkably so at the large airframers such as Airbus and Boeing, activity and investment in development and testing activities has continued.

Boeing’s 777X flight testing is progressing with the second aircraft in the air, while Gulfstream is pushing ahead with its G700 program in the USA. Irkut resumed flight testing of the MC-21-300 narrowbody airliner in April in Russia. Flight test operations have continued at the Airbus Flight Test Centre in Toulouse, while Leonardo certified its military trainer jet the M-345 in Italy last month.

There has been some casualties. Mitsubishi’s SpaceJet program has been delayed (again) and scaled back. Rolls-Royce and Airbus cancelled a joint flight test program for a hybrid electric aircraft. But overwhelmingly research into new and exciting areas such as electric aircraft, autonomy, drones and eVTOLs is continuing apace. For example, earlier this month air taxi firm Wisk resumed flight testing in New Zealand.

During times of adversity, people are forced to innovate. This is the case with ATI, which last month launched its webinar service and this month launches its first podcast series. I hope you find both useful, informative and complementary to our print magazine, weekly email newsletter and our website, which is updated daily .

Times are tougher and our life may have changed remarkably, but aviation’s fundamentals remain solid. The industry is still planning and developing for a future where air travel plays an even larger role in our society than it does at present. Longer term, any new normal should not exclude aviation. As long as the technology and aviation industry continues to evolve, people and society will embrace it.

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About Author

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Ben has worked all of his career as a journalist and now editor, covering almost all aspects of technology, engineering and industry. In the last 20 years he has written on subjects from nuclear submarines and autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies and commercial aviation. Latterly editor of a leading engineering magazine, he brings an eye for a great story and lots of experience to the team.

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