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25 Jul 02. Industry Minister, Alan Johnson today announced £2.6m of DTI funding to help a partnership led by Airbus UK, develop further wing technology for future generations of passenger jets.

The CASCADE project will be led from Airbus UK’s engineering centre at Filton near Bristol and will further develop techniques in using composite materials in civil aircraft wings. The DTI funding will be matched by industry partners.

CASCADE will enhance the UK’s future capability in a key area of design and manufacturing technology and enable the UK to maintain its civil airliner wing design leadership.

Alan Johnson, who is supporting the UK aerospace industry at Farnborough today said:

“This is good news all round.

“The research will lead to improvements in commercial aircraft design, and reduce aircraft weight, cost, fuel consumption and noise. I am delighted that government can support and invest in such a valuable project.

“The UK is already a world leader in wing technology and this funding will help to underpin this strong position.

“This Filton-led project demonstrates once again the aeronautics expertise we have in the South West.

“This is a boost for the Bristol area and will enhance the competitiveness of other UK companies and suppliers involved in this partnership.”

Tom Williams, Managing Director and General Manager Airbus UK said:

“This is the next step in a rolling technology programme at Airbus UK. With each new aircraft development the use of composite materials increases and this is a trend that will continue in the future.”

CASCADE follows on from a previous DTI project on composite structures (called AMCAPS – Affordable Manufacture of Composite Aircraft Primary Structure) that has resulted in several key achievements, most notably the manufacture of composite wing box components. This research is being exploited to improve aircraft weight, cost and design.

The CASCADE Project’s programme of work will focus on issues that currently limit design together with issues related to reducing cost, new processes in manufacturing and strategies in materials selection.

As well as Airbus UK, the project will be carried out in partnership with four other partners. The main collaborative partner is QinetiQ which has a major role in providing underpinning technologies to the project. Three other organisations active in aerospace composite materials and component engineering are also partners – the INBIS Group, the Advanced Composite Group and W & J Tod.
Composites technology is recognised as having the potential to provide major benefits for the design of to future commercial aircraft. Further research in this area is needed to build upon existing technology and to develop and exploit new low-cost composite materials.

Comment: This news comes at a time when several observers had told BATTLESPACE that there was a definite sea change in the government’s attitude to R&D investments in defence and aerospace. On the first day of the show the SBAC announced that 20,000 jobs in the sector had been lost in the last two years.

BAE’s persistent lobbying, some would say rather too forceful, appears to be bearing fruit and the establishment of a strong UK aerospace and defence industry to develop exports not just to provide good value goods to the MoD could be the way forward. We also understand that a contract placed last year for detection units with an East German company rather than world-leader Graseby may have been recognised as an error by the DPA.

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