EASN Newsletter - December 2020

EASN special issue on the effects of COVID-19 on Research in the Aviation Sector

  • Dear Colleagues,

    A difficult and demanding year comes to an end, and I sincerely hope that you and your families are well.

    Both our private and professional lives have been heavily affected by the drastic lockdown this spring, and now the pandemic keeps us in the stranglehold with its second wave. Aviation has seen a dramatic downturn and noticeable recovery is not yet in sight. This situation is also affecting the research agenda in our sector and it will be of paramount importance that we jointly find ways to mitigate the consequences on our activities in research and education. The course of events in 2020 was far from normal and this is why we have decided to disrupt the regular sequence of our EASN newsletters, presenting instead a dedicated issue on the effects of the pandemic on research in the aviation sector.

    We are pleased to present you an extended interview on the topic with Mr. Marian-Jean Marinescu, aeronautical engineer by training, but today Member of the European Parliament and Chairman of the "Sky and Space" Intergroup. The subject then is introduced in depth with an article of Prof. Dr. Dieter Schmitt, senior aerospace expert and Chairman of the EASN Stakeholders Advisory Board. A series of sixteen interviews with representatives of academia, research entities, small and medium sized enterprises and industry finally provides a broad overview on the situation in the research landscape.

    The survey presented in this newsletter will be uploaded on our EASN website www.easn.net, now in a fresh and modern appearance, and we are prepared to host a forum for further views and an open exchange on the effects of the pandemic on our activities on this platform.

    I trust that you find this dedicated issue of our newsletter informative and would like to conclude with my best wishes for a restful, healthy and merry holiday season!

    Prof. Andreas Strohmayer
    Chairman of the EASN Association
  • Interview of MEP Marian-Jean Marinescu

    Mr. Marian-Jean Marinescu is Member of the European Parliament and Chairman of the European's Parliament Sky and Space Intergroup.

    Mr. Marian-Jean Marinescu kindly accepted to share his views with the readers of the EASN Newsletter, regarding the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on Research in the Aviation Sector.

    Read the full interview on the EASN website by visiting the following link.

  • Article by Prof. Dr. Dieter Schmitt

    EASN Association is pleased to host an article of Prof. Dr. Dieter Schmitt, Chairman of the EASN Stakeholders Advisory Board and Independent consultant for aeronautics.

    Prof. Dr. Dieter Schmitt kindly accepted to share with the readers of the EASN Newsletter his perspective regarding the effects of the pandemic on research in the aviation sector, through an in-depth article. 

    Read the full article of Prof. Dr. Dieter Schmitt here.

Views of the European Aeronautical Community

  • EASN has invited sixteen distinguished personalities of the European Aeronautical Research Community to share with the readers of the EASN Newsletter their views, by answering the two following questions: 

    The Aviation sector belongs to the sectors most severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

    Question 1 (Q1): In your view, how does this crisis affect Research in the Aviation Sector?

    Question 2 (Q2): What needs to be done to face the consequences caused by COVID-19 and boost Aviation Research in Europe?

    The above-mentioned set of questions has been addressed to: 

    • Dr. Marcello Amato | CIRA’s Director General and EREA's Ηead of the Aeronautical Research Group
    • Mr. Yann Barbaux | Senior Vice President at Airbus and Executive Chairman of Aerospace Valley
    • Mr. Eric Dautriat | Former Executive Director of Clean Sky and Vice-President of the Air and Space Academy
    • Dr. Ch ristoph de Beer | Head of Political Affairs at Lufthansa Technik
    • Dr. Dietrich Knoerzer | Independent aeronautics consultant and a former senior Scientific Officer in the Aviation Unit within the Directorate General for Research & Innovation of the European Commission
    • Mr. Andreas Kötter | Advanced Business Manager Technology & Innovation at Altran Deutschland SAS & Co. KG.
    • Dipl.-Ing. Volker Krajenski | EU-Coordinator Aeronautics 
    • Mr. Axel Krein | Executive Director, Clean Sky 2 Joint Undertaking
    • Prof. Ing. Leonardo Lecce | CEO & President of NOVOTECH - Aerospace Advanced Technology Srl.
    • Dr. Catalin Nae | President & CEO of INCAS - National Institute for Aerospace Research
    • Prof. Spiros Pantelakis | Honorary Chairman of the EASN and Professor Emeritus at the University of Patras
    • Mr. Pascal Piot | Head of R&T International Cooperation, Technical Directorate in Dassault Aviation
    • Dr. Marco Protti | Vice President of Advanced Research in Leonardo Aircraft Division and vice-chairman of the Clean Sky JU Governing Board
    • Dr. Thomas Roetger | Assistant Director Environment Technology at IATA
    • Prof. Andreas Strohmayer | Chairman of the EASN and Head of the Department of Aircraft Design in the Institute of Aircraft Design (IFB), at the University of Stuttgart
    • Mrs. Gioia Venturini | Director, Vice-President for International Cooperation and Public Affairs R&T and Innovation of SAFRAN Group

    The answers provided, are following in alphabetical order. 

  • Dr. Marcello Amato is CIRA’s Director General and EREA's Ηead of the Aeronautical Research Group.

    Q1: COVID is severely impacting the Air Transport sector as many other industrial and service areas that normally contribute to the production of economic “value”. Research cycles are longer than those typical of productions and this is true for aviation sector as well, thus the long wave of the economic crisis did not hit yet in a full sense the research activities. It is important to say that the COVID crisis is appearing in a scenario that was promising on one side a continuous growth of the mobility requirements of both people and goods but on the other side possible restrictions to ATS due to emerging sensitivity of society to climate change and the perceived negative impact on climate by ATS. In perspective the COVID crisis will affect the aviation research in different ways.

    • Due to the COVID crisis a lot of public funding will be correctly directed toward health research in order to fight the current pandemic and, hopefully, also to increase preparedness of Europe and national governments to possible future health crisis . This might affect in a negative sense the amount of funding dedicated to research in the aviation sector.
    • How long will last Covid and what other crisis will affect the request of mobility? These are other elements that will influence the impact on the Aviation sector.
      • We all hope that the vaccines will stop very soon the COVID pandemic, but clearly we do not really know how long it will take to really impact and defeat the virus all over the world; it is worth considering that the vaccines very easily will not be available for all people around the world in a short time (if ever considering the disparity of economic conditions). Aviation is global, pandemic is global and if there is not a real worldwide covid-free situation we will face a very difficult situation to manage to ensure mobility and health safety. In fact, we might face for a long time a situation where we have to adapt the aviation offer to the level of health alert in time or geographically. This implies:
        • a totally different business model and planning of the mobility offer;
        • dedicated research to ensure a flexible mobility offer but also to ensure health on board of transport vehicles and infrastructures.
      • ​Other crisis might be behind the door, one for all the climate crisis with a lot of possible consequences on society and thus on the mobility request.

    Q2: The increasing request of green and climate friendly aviation is shaping a societal challenge that is becoming a driver for research in the mobility sector in general and specifically for aviation. This challenge is pushing Europe and National Governments to invest on the transition towards hybrid-electric and full-electric vehicles and in general towards smart green cities and transport modes. A lot of funding for R&TD projects, for the development of technological research facilities, for certification procedures might be required. On top of this political choices and regulations to impose the climate sustainable transport modes and vehicles are needed; market rules will never ensure alone the transition towards hybrid electric or full electric aviation. Public rules and funding will be needed to focus private investments towards the achievement of a social challenge thus ensuring growth but in a prescribed direction and with a well-defined speed able to really impact society.

    The question is where will be the balance between the above mentioned drivers will fall. This balance can be shaped by European and National investments in aviation research with appropriate rules in order to ensure societal impact with respect to the challenges of pandemics and climate change. This public funding should be mission oriented and with rules able to attract private funding with the objective to orientate the technology developments and shape the market in order to ensure resilience to COVID and, in perspective, to climate crisis allowing safe, climate neutral mobility and aviation growth.

  • Mr. Yann Barbaux is Senior Vice President at Airbus and Executive Chairman of Aerospace Valley.

    No need to say that the world is facing an unprecedented crisis, both sanitary and economic crisis, which impacts the civil aeronautics industry very severely and for a duration that nobody can seriously predict today. And the impact is even more severe because the crisis happened during a phase of incredible ramp-up, also never encountered before. In the past we were used to say that aeronautics was a cyclic sector… but over the last 20 years our industry did not experience any down-turn: the sanitary crisis in 2002-2003, or the financial crisis in 2008 only resulted in a slow-down of the ramp-up, limited in time. In March – April, at the first peak of the pandemic, air traffic went down to 10-15% of what it was previously. If the situation has improved air transport is, in fact, far from overcoming the crisis. About 73% of medium-haul single-aisle and 59% of long-haul wide-body have returned to service, but their utilization and occupancy rates remain 25% below normal. The situation is also much contrasted from one region to another. If China has regained 90% of its domestic air traffic, Europe is still only 60%, North America at 55%, South America at 44%, the Middle East at 35 % and Africa at 27%. The most striking contrast, however, is between domestic traffic, which has fallen to 49%, and international traffic, still only 12% at the end of August, due to the restrictions imposed at the borders. The only ones to do well are cargo planes, used at 100% of their capacity and whose traffic has increased by 11% since the start of the year. And the 2nd wave of the pandemic just pushes these figures down again, even if the perspective of a vaccine being available beginning of 2021 makes the community optimistic.

    This situation led both Airbus and Boeing to reduce their production rate. However, both manufacturers still forecast a virtual doubling of the world fleet over the next 20 years. At the current rate of production, reduced by 40% in April, Airbus should indeed deliver more than 500 devices per year (against 863 in 2019). And Boeing should do almost the same, in particular by disposing of some 450 Max accumulated since March 2019. So much so that in total, deliveries of civil aircraft from the two main aircraft manufacturers would remain at around a thousand aircraft. per year, i.e. the level of 2011, instead of the 1,600 deliveries reached in 2018, before the B737 Max crisis.
    In parallel our civil aviation industry is facing numerous severe attacks from NGOs because of its impact on environment. We all know that air transportation is responsible for only 2 to 3 percent of Greenhouse Gas Emissions originating from human activity, to be compared with 6 to 9% for Internet or 15% for animal farming, but it is very symbolic and seen as not absolutely necessary… This is driving us to accelerate as much as we can our ecological transition towards neutral growth, targeting to reach the already very ambitious goals of Flightpath 2050 much earlier. So we must take the opportunity of the crisis to accelerate the development of much cleaner aircraft. 
    Q1: The immediate impact of the crisis is a severe economic downturn of the whole industry, starting with airlines postponing or stopping orders and deliveries, creating a snowball effect on the complete value chain, with a drastic lack of cash to finance projects. In a first step many on-going projects were put on-hold or cancelled.
    Fortunately, at least in Europe, many countries took measures to limit this impact (long term furlough covered by state aids in particular). In parallel, the ramp-down made human resources available and some governments put in place specific financing schemes to support innovation, in priority to support the move towards a more sustainable aviation. But this is not supported by some / several politicians, due to the pressure from NGOs mentioned before.
    The development of new generation aircraft is a wonderful opportunity for the complete value chain: our industry needs better batteries, more effective electric engines, smarter energy management systems, efficient and environmentally friendly solution to produce and store hydrogen, but also, because we should not forget that we are flying heavier than air, new lighter and stronger materials and associated manufacturing…
    In parallel the development of these new technologies also results in the possibility of imagining new products for new usage, so called new mobility: drones, obviously, in support to lots of missions from surveillance of infrastructures to the last mile delivery, but also new segments for civil aviation: I’m particularly thinking of the development of aircraft up to 19 seats for very short haul flights, typically 400 km. The move to electric propulsion, already possible for this type of aircraft and mission from a technical view point, makes it also economically viable. As a matter of fact electric propulsion also results in a very important reduction in maintenance costs. The development of these new segments will give a second life to small airports, which will even have a positive side effect, as no additional infrastructure will be needed.
    Q2: The risk when we are in a situation like the one we face today - and we see it in the way the sanitary measures are taken - is that every country tries to find solutions at its level, and even sees the crisis as an opportunity to better position some of its champions. But we know that our industry finds its roots in a very effective and long lasting cooperation at European level. So…
    1. It’s absolutely necessary to have a strong European approach: The challenge to reach a real carbon free aircraft is huge: technically obviously, but also with regard to what it means in terms of changes in infrastructures, starting with Airports, and in terms of supply chain. Whether we consider electric flight or hydrogen we all know that this cannot happen if it’s supported only by the aviation sector, which is important for sure, but represents small sales numbers for most suppliers. So…
    2. We need a coordinated approach with other industrial sectors to develop rapidly the critical technologies: As stated before, due to the crisis, most of the actors are missing cash, and for the smallest ones have huge debts: so… 
    3. Europe must push for allocating more money to a very ambitious European R&T program on carbon-free aviation but also...
    4. The European Commission needs to consider different financing schemes, in particular for SMEs, with a larger proportion of public co-funding: Why not up to 100% for very risky research with long term perspective of market. This higher public co-funding might be (if absolutely required) counter-balanced by the fact that the European Union would own the IP developed on projects, until industries have the possibility to buy it back when the market is there.
    Last point, because our sector is facing severe attacks from NGOs, which are not fair considering the real ecological impact of aviation, and because: 
    • The aerospace sector is a major contributor to the creation of wealth and jobs in Europe, 
    • It’s an accelerator for the development of technologies which improve the life of citizens,
    • It’s an important tool for facilitating exchanges between people across the world, contributing to a better mutual understanding which helps for leaving in peace.
    5. We need to have a strong and authentic support from politics.
  • Mr. Eric Dautriat, former Executive Director of Clean Sky, is Vice-President of the Air and Space Academy and member of the EASN Stakeholders Advisory Board.

    Q1: It is obvious that the aviation sector is one of the most affected by the pandemic and the subsequent crisis. Still now, 9 months after the first lock-downs, the air traffic remains very low. Having said that, what will be the trajectory of recovery – if “recovery” is the right word? Indeed, the possibility of further pandemics may influence airports and airlines operations, sanitary measures, fill rates, etc. But this has little to do with aeronautical Research. More importantly, what about the attitudes, in Europe, towards the environmental impact of Air Transport, carrying expectations that this crisis even becomes an opportunity to fly differently… and maybe less? For sure, times are changing and it is probable that the future of flight is conditioned by the answers that this sector will be able to bring. This environmental pressure on Aviation is a bit excessive when one considers its somewhat limited contribution to the global greenhouse effect; on the other hand, it is truly time to take advantage from this unexpected stop for looking forward, reflecting on what paths to follow, and addressing the climatic challenge with a renewed ambition. And this obviously starts with Research. 

    To some extent, the pandemic crisis may become an opportunity for aviation Research…
    Q2: One may distinguish three questions that science, research and technology should address:
    • What about non-CO2 aviation effects on global warming? i.e. mainly, NOx, contrails and cirrus, the effect of which is still quite uncertain. This has been under discussion for 15 years at least – apparently with limited progress. However, this will – or should – orient the future technical evolutions, concerning engines, fuels or trajectories (e.g. contrails might be minimized thanks to adapted trajectories). For sure, this is a complex matter for modelling and experimenting. 
    • What technologies for cutting the fuel consumption of future generations of propulsion systems and aircraft?... getting closer and closer to an asymptote, yes, but there is still quite significant progress under reach! To begin with, a series of available, high TRL technologies do exist, the benefit of which could at last be considered for actual implementation into actual aircraft ASAP.
    • What new fuels to develop – be they “drop-in” or “non-drop-in”, keeping in mind the order of magnitude of the necessary primary energy / necessary surfaces (for crops, or for photovoltaic, etc), the environmental signature of the full production cycle, and the impact on logistics and infrastructures? Of course, this question is also linked to the impacts that non-drop-in fuels could have on the design, operations, safety and performances of aircraft, which should not be taken lightly (on the air of “technology will solve every issue”).
    • And a fourth question could be addressed to another category of researchers: sociologists; this question would be: how may air travellers behaviours evolve in the future, for professional travelling, for tourism?
    It would be a shame to forget or mistreat this sector of excellence, now in crisis for external causes, while the EU authorities have rightfully decided to spend unprecedented amounts of funds for securing its industry and services. For aviation, funding ambitious RT&D is the best thing to do for shaping the global future and putting it on the right track – taking the lead for defining the world air transport of 2050 and well beyond. This is exactly the right time for increasing the effort, and also for involving all competences under well-defined, far-reaching strategic guidelines. All competences mean in particular, academia and all kind of research organisations, basic research being more necessary than ever in such a period of changing paradigms. The European aviation research network is perfectly able to address all these items. The ecosystem consolidated through years (Framework Programmes, Clean Sky and others) is there.
    While a policy-driven strategy is necessary, it will also be important to keep one’s wits in front of political crazes and media hype which will, no doubt, tend to promote solutions before any viability study is made. An independent research mindset, for this, will be key. 
  • Dr. Christoph de Beer is Head of Political Affairs at Lufthansa Technik.

    Q1: Aviation research is heavily affected in many ways by the crisis.

    At first, scientific work was almost completely stopped, as it was the case in most other sectors. As the crisis progressed, scientists had to learn quickly how digital collaboration could work and how to work together without physical contact. Now that these difficulties have been more or less overcome, research is back to a very reasonable level.

    And that is a good thing, because the challenges for aviation could not be greater. On the one hand, ways must be found to enable airlines to operate economically again. On the other hand, emission-free aviation must be achieved as quickly as possible. And research will play a decisive role in this.

    The biggest problem, however, is that many companies, especially airlines and aviation industry, have been hit so hard by the crisis that in many cases all activities not directly related to value creation have been shut down or have been temporarily stopped. Studies show that cross-industry wise up to 40% of innovation activities have been stopped during the crisis. This strongly affects cooperative projects between industry and research entities.

    ​Q2: From the above follows that the financing of aeronautics research projects in particular must be structured differently. New instruments must be created which are not based on old rules for co-financing obligation of companies. One possible solution could be, that research institutes would be supported to such an extent that they can take over essential parts of industrial research. And that means not only financial support but also the possibility of procuring equipment and temporarily taking over highly qualified personnel from industry. Assuming that IP-related issues can be solved this would make research institutes much more attractive and more important for industry. It would increase the interest of companies in cooperating with research institutes and thus intensify collaboration and cooperation. In the long term it is hoped that cooperation between science and industry will be intensified to the extent, that this close collaboration will be maintained also after the crisis.  

  • Dr. Dietrich Knoerzer is an independent aeronautics consultant and a former senior Scientific Officer in the Aviation Unit within the Directorate General for Research & Innovation of the European Commission. He is also member of the EASN Stakeholders Advisory Board.

    Q1: The situation at the end of 2020 remains very difficult for the entire aviation sector. The civil air traffic fell in Europe in spring 2020 by 88 % and about by two third in the global international air traffic. A recovery to pre-crisis figures is not expected before 2024. The big aircraft manufacturers have to reduce their production and lay off between 16.000 (Airbus) and 30.000 (Boeing) employees by next year. Also many airlines proceed with a massive staff reduction.

    These boundary conditions and the ongoing Corona pandemic causing restrictions in nearly all countries will have a multiple impact to aviation research in Europe. Air shows, scientific and aviation conferences or workshop were cancelled, postponed or became virtual events. The exchange between researchers has been reduced to on-line communication and e-mails. The cooperative research of international partners in joint projects is hampered by the restrictions. Research priorities need to be adapted for ensuring a future healthy air transport system, which bears a significantly reduced infection risk and minimises its contribution to spreading diseases.

    Q2: Never before a pandemic has spread all over the world from its origin in South-East Asia as COVID-19, mainly through the global air transport system. As international experts that in future there are more risks of other highly dangerous diseases, caused by the mutation of animal diseases to highly infectious human diseases as before SARS, Bird Flu or Ebola. Consequently advanced measures need to be developed to enhance hygiene standards, on-board infections safety, and ground based control technics detecting infected passengers before entering the airplane. This requires research and technology development for aviation in new areas.

    Despite the severe problems caused by the COVID-19 will impact the aviation sector probably for some more years, another long-term challenge, the tackling the problem of the global warming remains an important issue also for aviation. Reducing the green-houses gases from aviation by at least 50% by 2050 compared to 2000 requires research and innovation effort in aircraft design, alternative fuels, enhanced propulsion systems and relevant game changes. Here beside COVID-19 the relevant aeronautics research must have top priority and has to be addressed by technology developments on European, national and company level. Despite all effort and achievements until now, more needs to be done for meeting the ambitious but necessary goals for aviation.

    The new EU Framework Programme for Research & Innovation ‘Horizon Europe’ (2021 – 2027) should boost the needed aviation technologies in all key areas through cooperative research and the joint undertakings ‘Clean Aviation’ and SESAR.

  • Mr. Andreas Kötter is Advanced Business Manager Technology & Innovation at Altran Deutschland SAS & Co. KG.

    Q1: The COVID-19 crisis affects the aviation sector heavily. The main impact on R&D has been a shift of focus from industrial technologies which aim at increasing production and assembly rates towards zero emissions and sustainable manufacturing technologies. Due to significant decrease in turnover among the industry, more and more R&D activities need to be supported from the public side. Innovation generally gets a significantly higher focus as other regions of the world seem to strengthen their position in the world market due to shorter lockdown timeframes. This challenge will further push the development of innovation within Europe. As the aviation sector is a key driver for new technologies, an increase of funding opportunities is necessary and will surely be provided on national and European level. 
    Q2: Aviation was one of the most affected sectors in Europe, few other industries have faced as many consequences due to the pandemic. Coming from a fully “grounded“ period, it will take time to recover and boost research in this area to pre-crisis levels. However, this challenging time has shed light on the areas where the aviation sector could be strengthened which presents new opportunities for research. Stakeholders have to identify new business cases for themselves, their customers and suppliers. This – of course – demands innovation. By bringing new demands and models close to market, there is a possibility to also use the current situation to become stronger than competitors. My impression is that the European Commission will follow the advice of experts to continue funding research activities in aviation which could be used to strengthen aviation health and safety and boost sustainability which are topics that continue to be relevant even in times of COVID-19.
  • Dipl.-Ing. Volker Krajenski is an EU-Coordinator Aeronautics and member of the EASN Stakeholders Advisory Board.

    Q1: Aviation is one of the most affected sectors by the Corona pandemic and will be one of the last sectors to recover from the COVID-19 impacts. Although the consequences of the COVID-19 crisis are not fully clear by now it becomes obvious that the pandemic has the potential to change the aviation world. Research Establishments as DLR can and will continue to support the aviation sector in reaching the sustainability goals like emission reduction and efficient use of resources, taking into account the opportunities of digitalization. Short term innovation in these fields will enable the  aviation sector to return even stronger from the current crisis.

    Q2:The current situation will for sure influence the future research and innovation strategies on national and European level. To keep the leading position of the European aviation sector, the already existing network from industry, research, academic and politics has to overcome the economic problems in close cooperation while keeping the agreed environmental goals. DLR will support this by concentrating on the research and development of new, innovative technologies towards an ecological and efficient aviation which will enable the European aviation sector to stay competitive on a global level.

    Provided that research and innovation on national and European level will be enhanced, coordinated and focused, the COVID-19 crisis could even help to accelerate the transformation towards a Zero Emission Aviation. Hybrid and full electric flying, the use of hydrogen and alternative fuels, as well as innovative aircraft configurations must be in the focus of research and innovation programs. This will lead to a sustainable aviation along the whole value chain and lifetime of an aircraft, securing existing and creating new jobs and safeguarding the competitiveness and leading position of the European aviation sector.

  • Mr. Axel Krein is Executive Director, Clean Sky 2 Joint Undertaking.

    Q1: Aviation research, like all facets of the aviation sector, has been faced with significant challenges due to COVID-19. But although there have been unavoidable hold-ups caused by Europe-wide lockdowns, I am pleased to report that the vast majority of our projects have continued, and more than 80% of Clean Sky 2’s key demonstrators will be able to deliver their objectives by the end of the programme as planned. The content and timing of the remaining demonstrators is currently being adapted. Overall, we are effectively forecasting a delay of approximately four months in the implementation of the programme. Of course, we continue to monitor this situation very closely, define further mitigation actions and make updates as needed so that we can be sure we are doing everything we can to support all of our stakeholders. But difficult times present us with new opportunities. We are more determined than ever to make climate-neutral aviation a reality, in alignment with the European Commission and in support of the European Green Deal and the economic recovery ahead.

    Q2: The impact of COVID-19 on the aviation sector will be felt for many years. Unfortunately, this pandemic has not been a short wave for the aviation sector to ride out. 90% of Europe’s fleet were grounded from March to May of this year, and now in the second lockdown 62% of European aircraft are lying dormant.

    Despite this, it is a hugely exciting time to be involved in aviation research in Europe. The pandemic has brought opportunities as well as challenges, and the European Green Deal and the EU Green Recovery are highlighting the need for cleaner, more sustainable and environmentally-friendly aircraft. A strong investment in innovative approaches is necessary, as greening aviation is a massive technological challenge. At Clean Sky we recognise that surmounting that challenge involves close collaboration with all actors – universities, SMEs and research centres as well as industry. To boost aviation research in Europe, we need to harness the talents and the energies of actors like young researchers and entrepreneurs. We have initiatives like the Best PhD Award which recognises the brightest young academics in clean aviation research, and we count more than 150 universities, 100 research centres, 360 SMEs and 300 industrial organisations amongst our partners. There will be no one silver bullet for making aviation climate-neutral – it will be a joint effort, combining an array of innovative technologies, skill sets and synchronised roadmaps between all public and private stakeholders. But it is 100% “Mission Possible” – we are ready for this challenge!

  • Prof. Ing. Leonardo Lecce is CEO & President of NOVOTECH - Aerospace Advanced Technology Srl.

    Q1: What we have seen in response to COVID-19 pandemic, is that the large OEM companies, for their activities in the civil aviation sector, due to the shortage of the orders for new aircraft, have reduced a lot the budget for R&D and postponed activities on the development of new products. TThis decision has determined that their supply chain of SMEs will face a significant shortage of orders and consequently also these SMEs have to reduce their budget and activities in R&D. From the other side, the specific national public financial support to industry in order to maintain their workforces and the strong financial needs for sanitary expenditures, have also reduced the public resources available for financing the R&D. This situation can determine also a similar behaviour from the EU expenditures in R&D. Therefore, I think that we will face a significant reduction in expenditure, from both sides of public and private proveniences for R&D in the Aviation Sector.

    Q2: Other then the obvious response that we need to stimulate public and private decision makers to maintain the level of the past financial support to R&D in Aviation Sector, in order to stimulate large and SME industries to maintain and possible to improve their efforts in R&D, I think that all available financial support to R&D, in this situation of probable shortage of funding, need to be made more efficient and productive, addressing more research close to the market and with high TRL.

    When available funding is limited, we need that the spending is productive and results in terms of new products  close to the market, are tangibile and productive. Basic research is fundamental for the progress of the human knowledge, but in the present situation can be a little reduced or postponed, giving more attention to R&D activities that can have results that have a clear and a timeframe prospective to give the possibility to have new and innovative products, processes or services.

    With respect to the technologies that need to be stimulated, I agree that the hybrid and full electric propulsion  system development , with the relative attention to hydrogen as fuel, is a must for the Aviation Sector for all kind of  civil commercial aircraft, in order to give to the generic public the strong attention of this sector to the pollution problem, but in the same time other aspect connected to the larger problem of the inter or infra city mobility must be addressed like the Urban Air Mobility (UAM) new field of development of new aerial platform and relative infrastructures.

  • Dr. Catalin Nae is President & CEO of INCAS - National Institute for Aerospace Research.

    Q1: There is a need for some clarifications, as follows:

    • The challenges we are facing in the aviation sector are currently severely impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. However, this is a temporary crisis, that (hopefully) will end soon. It has strongly impacted on the aviation business, with significant losses for major stakeholders, both in the industry and in the operations, but one may consider this as transitional. We except to have the recovery, in terms of business figures, in 3 years from now (wishful thinking), reaching the levels from 2019. But the real challenge is “carbon neutral aviation”. This is still there, targets and milestones are already set for 2035/2050, and there is what we should consider.
    • In this respect we have started the hard work towards “how”. Reaching such goals are not that severely impacted by current COVID-19 crisis, in my opinion. As long as we consider the research part, this has been almost “business as usual”, using available instruments for financing and incentive schemes. We may argue that private investment was significant lower this year, due to the business reduction, but this involvement is expected more on the implementation phases. We were not in this phase, so this is why I would consider that “direct impact” was not relevant.
    • Another positive thing was that most of the “big” stakeholders already committed long term resources in the research activities. Strategic planning towards “carbon neutral aviation” was already part of the SRIA, with requested support instruments and political support. So we would expect a successful partnership under future HE for aviation, with research ready to answer the challenges and industry ready to deliver! This is positive message, and I thing COVID-19 played a positive role!

    So, in my opinion, research is in good situation, even if we are directly affected by the COVID-19 in our institutions. We have been challenged to answer the major goals in the aviation sector, instruments are on the ramping-up phase and the political will is behind. We (research) are now doing what we always expected/dream for: we have challenges ahead of us and we are mobilizing resources to provided the needed solutions… Of course, this positive message is only possible/realistic, if no major changes will occur in the current evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic and/or in the EU policies.

    Q2: Aviation sector was hit in the business area. However, the impact is not (yet) in the programmatic vision towards sustainable aviation. Of course, a standard answer would be “more resources” and “enhanced synergies”. The firsts thing to do (in my opinion) would be to enter in the proposed partnership for clean aviation asap. Then, also using synergies from all parties involved, to start implementation for an ATS having the goals defined by current programmatic documents as FlightPath 2050 (updated) and EREA Future Sky Vision. And not to forget our national R&D instruments… In local terms, we all continue to improve our human resources and expertise, as well as introducing new research infrastructures and capabilities for demonstration. This is an area where we focus current resources, so that we may answer challenges towards clean aviation. Again, in my opinion, this is a time for new opportunities and we should answer new challenges, as we always did in the aviation sector. 

  • Prof. Spiros Pantelakis is Honorary Chairman of the European Aeronautics Science Network Association (EASN) and Professor Emeritus at the University of Patras.

    Q1: The consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic for the Aviation Sector are detrimental. Air traffic in Europe has been reduced by approximately 90%, and even after the end of the pandemic, the time that will be needed for a full recovery of air traffic is assessed to be long. This, in turn, leads to a dramatic reduction on the demand for new aircrafts at the short and medium term. Usual “victims” when costs need to be dramatically reduced, are employment and research. Although history has shown that the best and safest way to overcome a severe financial and societal crisis is to invest on bright ideas and breakthrough innovation, the development of the latter is associated with high risks, as well as, on top of that, the full magnitude of the financial and societal benefits can only be fully appraised in the long run. The messages received by the stakeholders of the sector, make clear the big difficulties that they encounter in making available the necessary funds needed for research, and in particular for innovative research at a low maturity level. Furthermore, the significant unbalance in the funds for collaborative research in the current draft aviation research program in the frame of Horizon Europe, makes evident that we are falling into the trap to dramatically reduce the speed of the vehicle that could help us escape the present crisis. The risk of failing to meet the challenges of overcoming the climate change and protecting our planet, puts in danger the long-term competitiveness of Europe and makes the prospect of losing its global leadership in Aviation a reality. Yet, this risk is not tolerable and should not be taken.  

    Q2: As the consequences of the pandemic are global, the efforts for facing them have to be global too. At the European level, the key words should be: more support for Aviation research and particularly for innovative disruptive research, synergies and cooperation between the stakeholders, the sectors, the Commission and the European countries as well as the Private and Public parties, optimism and dedication to come back to our normality. Apparently, the above need to be supported by specific measures. Unfortunately, the messages coming from Brussels are not very encouraging. For the obvious reasons underlined in answering the first question of this survey, the public funds for Aviation research in Horizon Europe need to be appreciably higher as compared to Horizon 2020. Yet, the currently available information indicates the opposite and if that proves to be true, it would be a very unlucky decision. After having regrettably missed the opportunity to integrate the entire Aviation research in Horizon Europe under one common umbrella so as to maximize synergies, it now seems that we are moving towards a very unbalanced share between research for exploring and maturing disruptive technologies, and research for integrating and demonstrating technologies. This will result into appreciably diminishing the former. Clearly, this unbalance needs to be fixed. Furthermore, time is due for elaborating an Academia friendly policy and make its participation to the European Partnership Clean Aviation easily manageable. The challenges related to overcoming the consequences of the pandemic for the future of the European Aviation cannot be met without a significant Academia contribution. Special attention needs to be also given for facilitating the participation of SMEs in the joint European aviation research efforts by implementing funding rules that take account of the fact that SMEs have been the ones most severely affected by the crisis. Therefore, they are hardly in the position to make available research funds, although for many of them, inability to participate in research, would threaten their actual existence. Last but not least, we need optimism and motivation. Optimism that we will win back the normality in our lives soon, and motivation to overcome the illusory convenience of working at home, jump in an aircraft and enjoy again our next flight to a business meeting, to the next EASN physical Conference in Salerno or simply to a sunny place for fun!     

  • Mr. Pascal Piot is Head of R&T International Cooperation, Technical Directorate in Dassault Aviation.

    Q1: When a company faces a pandemic like this, so suddenly, it creates a large impact in the aviation sector from the OEMs down to the supply chain and SMEs. It is comparable to an earthquake where a sudden event completely changes the reference points and after it takes a long time to recover and to see the end of the tunnel. During such event, every company, and in particular in Dassault Aviation, tries to mitigate the impact as much as possible, coming back to key priorities, current deliveries, customer support, on-going programs… Research and Innovation is a priority to ensure a safe future to the company and should not be affected by the crisis. A balanced public and private investment is essential to support the objectives of the European Partnership for Clean Aviation and to enable the implementation of the draft SRIA delivered before summer 2020, as reflected in the recently signed Joint Memorandum of Commitment by major stakeholders.

    ​Q2: Aviation sector needs a strong support from institutional Parties. It has been managed at national level with recovery funds and a strong ambition to support industry during this period. Europe needs to provide a clear signal as well in providing attractive conditions to mitigate the crisis. It should be reflected by a significant budget dedicated to Clean Aviation partnership and for the Collaborative Research, as described in the SRIA. It should also be complemented by an attractive funding rate, and associated smart regulations rules, at minimum similar to H2020 ones. If not, for both (budget and rules), the risk is that the fragile balance between national and European programs could be threatened in favor of the national ones, more attractive, breaking the so difficult to obtain valuable dynamic between European industries, research establishments, academia and SMEs.

  • Dr. Marco Protti is the Vice President of Advanced Research in Leonardo Aircraft Division and vice-chairman of the Clean Sky JU Governing Board.

    Q1: The COVID-19 pandemic represents a great opportunity to promote and strength the cooperation among European stakeholders in maturing and demonstrating key enabling technologies supporting the development of the Aviation Sector. The research projects are at the centre of industries strategy and I think that research ecosystem will be only partially affected by the crisis as soon as new project will give us the opportunity to be ready for the post pandemic challenges. Innovation is vitally important to Leonardo. We base our competitiveness on creating cutting-edge technologies and products. In 2019 we invested more than €1.5 billion in Research and Development (R&D). This equates to about 11% of company revenues. Leonardo is ranked 3rd in Europe and 4th worldwide in terms of R&D investments in the Aerospace and Defence sector.

    Q2: The following actions are considered relevant to boost the Aviation Research in Europe:

    • Create attractive and inclusive research programmes capable to foster and exploit the best competencies across and beyond the traditional aviation ecosystem, enabling an acceleration of the innovation.
    • Provide funding level and rules to access it appropriate to the complexity and ambition that the Aviation is facing to maintain the ecosystem health and the European aviation sector competitive.
    • Enable the exploitation of synergies across European, national and regional research programmes to support a more effective use of the public and private investments.
    • Support the SME and Start-up capable to provide unique and strategic competencies and technologies with appropriate financial instruments.
  • Dr. Thomas Roetger is Assistant Director Environment Technology at IATA.

    Q1: Every crisis is an opportunity. While the COVID-19 pandemic is having unprecedented consequences on aviation operations, it has mobilized innovation in many areas of aviation. To facilitate the immediate restart of air transport, a lot of innovative processes and equipment have been developed in the last months, such as UV disinfection and antimicrobial surface coatings for aircraft cabins and contactless check-in and security processes at airports. But also more basic studies have been done: as a prominent example, atmospheric researchers took advantage of the skies with almost no contrails to gain new results about the climate impact of contrails and cirrus – a topic of increasing importance today. The largest impulse, however, is coming from the R&D funding for sustainable aviation provided as part of the financial support for the industry. In this framework, the French government is providing 1.5 billion € for the development of clean hydrogen-powered aircraft to enter service around 2035, in synergy with the EU Clean Aviation Partnership and European and various national hydrogen strategies. This provided the long-awaited breakthrough towards the industrial development of revolutionary commercial aircraft designs using clean propulsion energy.

    ​Q2: The biggest risk is the worsening financial situation and loss of experienced staff in all sectors of the aviation industry, in the aerospace manufacturing companies as well as in airlines, airports and air traffic management. Public support for ongoing research and technology programmes is therefore more important than ever, to provide the means to overcome the crisis and even more to guarantee a sustainable future for the aviation sector. We are seeing promising trends in Europe for R&T on future aviation, as noted above, and also US President-elect Joe Biden recently pledged to support development of low-carbon aviation with a net-zero emission goal by 2050.

  • Prof. Andreas Strohmayer is the Chairman of the European Aeronautics Science Network Association (EASN) and Head of the Department of Aircraft Design in the Institute of Aircraft Design (IFB), at the University of Stuttgart.

    Q1: The dramatic slump in air traffic demand has a serious impact on the whole aviation sector, obviously including Research. The airlines most probably will reduce spending for new aircraft in the years to come, but on the other hand we might see an early retirement of older types, making place for replacement once air traffic gains traction again. In the current downturn there is a significant risk, that the aircraft and engine OEMs would have to reduce their research ambitions, if not specifically supported with national and European research funding. On a day-to-day level, the ongoing research activities are hampered by the lack of exchange in-person, which typically is an important factor for creativity and scientific discourse. Virtual exchange platforms were able to step in and soften the adverse effects to some extent, but we can see a slight ditch in efficiency and appreciable delays in the preparation and execution of research projects. Major dissemination events such as for example our annual EASN conference, an important element for fruitful scientific exchange between researchers, had to be turned to fully virtual events. This allows still for an exchange of results, but researchers miss the open discussion and informal conversation one would find at a traditional conference. It will be difficult to assess the overall impact on the research landscape, but it could well be that we will see the result in the coming years like a farmer who had to seed in dry grounds.

    Q2. As a reaction to the challenges posed by COVID-19, the idea of “Build Back Better” starts to spread through all domains and this should not stop in our sector. Well-directed research funding should orient aviation research on the path to a more sustainable and resilient air transport system, to prepare the fleet replacement with a disruptive generation of “greener” aircraft. This should become the joint objective for all stakeholders in aviation research, ranging from industry to RTOs and academia. In order to unite all European research stakeholders, also the digital infrastructure has to be improved, to allow for an even smoother exchange of data and ideas. Virtual meetings and conferences are here to stay and require more powerful and standardized tools and connections throughout Europe. Distributed research will become part of our agenda and whatever was still improvised earlier this year has to be transferred to robust processes, allowing us to efficiently deliver research results in quality and in time. In view of our scientific gatherings finally, the advantages of remote participation for researchers with an agenda too tight or a journey too long to reasonable permit for an in-person participation should be kept by providing viable models for hybrid conference formats. All these instruments together should help aviation to be in a more resilient position once hit by another pandemic.

  • Mrs. Gioia Venturini is Director, Vice-President for International Cooperation and Public Affairs R&T and Innovation of SAFRAN Group and member of the EASN Stakeholders Advisory Board.

    Q1: The research in the Aviation sector is affected in two ways: 

    • SHORT TERM, the immediate financial impact on on-going R&T projects: the COVID-19 crisis directly affects the turnover of companies, which, in return, need to immediately streamline operations and staff in their struggle to survive. R&T departments are not preserved by this general trend, resulting in budget reduction up to 30%, resulting in partial activity for researchers, delaying or non-hiring of PhD students and delaying/reducing contributions to cooperation projects (both at national and European level). The overall consequence of this short term impact is the delay of on-going projects with the risk of cancellation if the crisis continues. This entails a focused management on on-going project budget and HR to address the legal issues that this exceptional situation may generate. Excellence in results, which has always been the priority of the sector, may as well be affected. However, the nature of research projects is important: environmental related projects have better chances to continue than others, especially because State aids encourage the maintaining of these projects to support the energy transition of the sector which cannot wait the resolution of the COVID-19 sanitary crisis and the recovery from it. Some companies have also committed in maintaining a minimum level of recruitment while subscribing to national recovery plans.
    • LONG TERM, the cut in long term R&T budgets, the reduction of the research scope and the drifting away of talents: incomes of private companies are severely affected so planning the future is becoming a very uncertain exercise, especially when no economic visibility can be reasonably anticipated. To survive the economic short term, the long term is constrained, at least part of it. Mid-long term R&T budgets are reduced up to 50% in some cases, which translates in a downsized research perimeter and less sector wide investment (research centers, universities). The less attractive economic perspectives and the shrinking research perimeter is likely to turn away from the aeronautic sector the best talents (students, PhDs, researchers) at a moment when the sector is undergoing its most important revolution towards native green technologies. The must-do projects, notably the ones linked to climate neutrality, are likely to drive all financial resources in the future. In general, the sector will have to face a complex equation at the end of the crisis, whenever it will happen: the Green Deal challenge requires huge investments to operate the energy transition in the aeronautic sector so to act effectively on the climate change (which is feasible) but the COVID-19 crisis is both reducing the companies’ ability to invest at the right level and limiting the attractiveness of the sector for the talents who are needed to cope with the green revolution. Member States and the EU will need to recognize this tug-of-war situation and provide the right answer.

    Q2: The dramatic consequences of the COVID-19 crisis over the aviation sector need to be addressed in a holistic way. There is not one single solution to cope with the rapid decline of the sector. The first and most important aspect is to consider this crisis as an exceptional opportunity for the whole sector to re-invent itself and for the aeronautic research to become the real tool for the energy transition called for by the Green Deal and the public opinion/citizens. Secondly, aviation bashing should be overcome as aeronautic research is smart enough to propose solutions to tackle effectively the environmental challenges and this has to be clearly explained to decision makers, associations and citizens. It must be reminded that aviation supports more than 87 million jobs around the world and contribute to 3.5 trillion dollars to the world GDP, while some 15 billion dollars are already spent each year by aerospace companies in aircraft technology efficiency. This figure will definitely increase in the future to cope with the Green Deal and other world policy focus on environmental issues. Third, it must be understood that the COVID-19 crisis is the leap frog accelerator of the energy transition and that research funding are and will be dedicated to this transition not to support healing companies. Other budgets at national or European levels are devoted to the economic recovery of the sector, but today research fundings should compensate the de facto reduced private investment level that the crisis has engendered to deliver an ambitious aeronautic research. Fourth, the technological research should interact in a renewed and more intertwined manner with the making of public policies, regulations and standards. As a matter of fact, the upcoming green technologies will need a fresh new application legal/policy environment for its technical results to deliver the real expected impact. Climate neutrality is a recipe made of technologies, public policies and regulations/operations where research in all sectors and disciplines can contribute. A first short term example will be the ability of public policies to support the development of SAFs and related infrastructures, which will be essential to start implementing the fast reduction of CO2 emissions in the aviation sector. Fifth, the sector research must remain attractive for young talents and public policies regarding higher education are central to maintain the focus on excellence and the appetite for the fantastic challenges the aeronautic sector is offering with the revolutionary energy transition it is presently undergoing. Maybe teaching and training should better answer to young researchers ‘aspirations, where deep technological knowledge must be combined with a broader strategic view of the challenges so to explicitly deliver the ultimate meaning of why a research activity is undertaken. Finally, in order to boost the aeronautic research a closer cooperation with private investors should be encouraged to develop the mindset: fail fast, succeed faster. Shortening the loop between experimentation and theory in a positive attitude towards failure (=opportunity to learn) will certainly push European aeronautic research ahead and beyond excellence.

    As a final word, ethics and peer reviews together with verified and verifiable research data should continue to support aeronautic research activities. Confidence in data and results will deliver proper products and policies safe for people and rewarding for companies. Trust must be rebuilt at all levels: technical, political and passengers.

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