Propulsion-airframe integration offers untapped promise to improve aircraft efficiency and performance
With billions being spent in pursuit of fuel savings, closer integration of engines and aircraft may hold the greatest untapped potential for improvement. But extracting synergies from the intermingling of propulsion and airframe design is demanding changes in the way the stove-piped aerospace industry operates.
The search for efficiency is taking the industry into virgin territory. As this special focus on propulsion-air-frame integration reveals, the mixing is already beginning and will only accelerate, bringing aircraft and engine manufacturers and system suppliers together in ways that have yet to be fully appreciated.
The seeds are being sown with the engine-nacelle integration work underway with Nexcelle in Europe, and in the U.S. where independent nacelle supplier Goodrich is to become part of United Technologies Corp. and is working closely with soon-to-be-sister company Pratt & Whitney on the PW1000G geared turbofan
Where will this lead, industrially and technically? With ultra-high bypass ratios and low fan-pressure ratios on the horizon, will the next generation of turbofans include nacelle integration from Day 1? It seems integrating those propulsion systems with the airframe more efficiently from the outset is the logical next step.
As the following articles show, propulsion-airframe integration also is essential to the design of quiet supersonic transports, future airliners that achieve dramatic reductions in fuel consumption and military platforms that combine low observability with high performance and energy efficiency.