Will every jumbo jet soon look like a propeller plane? If Airbus has its way, that could be a good thing. The company is researching “bare” engines – and expects many advantages from this.
Aviation is looking for alternative drives. To this end, the European manufacturer Airbus wants to test, among other things, the so-called “Open Fan” concept – on the world’s largest passenger aircraft, the Airbus A380. In the coming years, the group wants to bring a test aircraft onto the runway and replace the inner engine on the left side.
The drive, also called “Propfan”, is built by CFM. Airbus promises a combination of the high performance of a turbofan engine and the comparatively low consumption of a propeller engine. In addition, the new engine should be quieter. Those who live in the flight path of the A380 will thank you.
More than 10 years of work
In a manufacturer video you can see that the engines should be suitable for mounting under the wings as well as on the tail. In addition, Airbus and CFM have set themselves the goal that the engine should also be equipped for sustainable fuels.
Airbus hopes that the new engines will be operational by the mid-2030s, but the researchers have a lot of work to do. First, the engine will be tested on the ground. It then goes to the test aircraft, which is specially equipped for such tests.
Once assembled, numerous experiments follow. Airbus is planning a whole series of technical tests, such as the behavior of the engine on the aircraft and the aerodynamic properties. As mentioned at the beginning, sound is also an important criterion – not only for people on the ground, but also for passengers on board. After that, the machine will also be tested for its hybrid-electric capabilities and compatibility with sustainable fuels will be ensured.
The companies involved have been researching “open fan” engines since the 1980s, and the installation of the propellers varies greatly from experiment to experiment. The current concept is that there are two sets of blades at the front, with only the front propeller rotating. The rear vanes act as “stators” designed to direct airflow. From the front it then looks as if the A380 were a propeller aircraft.