Messehallen-Static Display

Messehallen Aero

Aero Friedrichshafen really is the opening event of the flying year in Europe. All though it is principally a static event, and lacks the pizazz of an airshow per se, it really is the focal point for all thing Aero to kick off another year.

This year, the event was made even better by three days of warm weather, which brought many visitors to the event (over 30,000). As always the stands were dominated by a strong Rotax Aircraft Engine presence, but with an added hybrid twist, not to mention the growth in ‘special mod Rotax’ options.

Marc Becker from Rotax HQ, gave an update on the 915iS project. This 135Hp engine is still on schedule for public release in 2017, and the company has over 3000 test hours, including growing flight hours, on the engine.  When asked about a public price, Marc indicated that such detail would be released through the various distributors in the new year, but that it would be in line with the current pricing on power/weight/$ ratios.

One of the milestone differences of the 915iS engines is a new gearbox. Marc explained that the new gearbox is a response to market demands for a new generation of gearboxes. It is 2 inches (50mm) longer, hopefully reducing the growing number of prop-spacers, and also contains innovative improvements to energy management of the propeller.

A number of stands made it clear that they were looking at a 915iS powered solution for next year, and none had a more impressive emplacement than the Shock Cub! Already offered with the other Rotax engines, the 915iS will surely make this aircraft a STOL winner. (http://www.zlinaero.com/prodotti.php?id=17&lang=2 ) More details will surely follow.

The Pipistrelle Hybrid solution is fascinating, and was displayed in the electric power section of the show. Using a Rotax 914UL, 115Hp engine, installed ‘back to front’ with a CNC machined gearbox driving an electrical generator, which then feed batteries to run the 270Hp electric motor at the pointy end!  (http://www.panthera-aircraft.com/technical-data )The 6 coolant radiator array gives an indication of the challenge of heat management under the cowling, and with it the many wires and hoses that are used to bring this unusual marriage into harmony.

Also in the electric arena, we found a ‘40Hp electric take off booster’ being proposed for the Rotax engine range by one of the early hybrid innovators (http://axteraerospace.com/projects/ ).  The added weight at the gearbox end, and the need for a chunky battery or two, may defeat much of the gain, but it is all about innovation, and holds promise for more exciting solutions in the future.

Back in the petrol-head zone, we found another Rotax 914UL, with a custom injection installation (and repainted yellow rocker covers) claiming ‘130Hp available now’ from Tarragon (http://www.tarragonaircraft.com/en/specs/engines/) .  On another stand, this time with orange rockers, we found a 912ULS powered helicopter with another one off injector solution claiming 110Hp (http://www.dynali.com/helicopter-specifications.php )

These installations, although they may not be ‘in line with the installation manuals’, demonstrate some magnificent engineering creativity and confidence in the Rotax Aircraft Engine range.  Much as we are used to such ‘innovation’ in the home market, it is interesting to see it on the stands as a ‘mainline product’ on new aircraft for sale.  As always, ‘buyers beware’ and ensure that safety is a prime factor in all your flying activities.

On the family front, it was wonderful to see so many youngsters at the show (under 14’s admitted free). The Messe (exhibition centre) provide 2 hours per day of FREE childcare for visitors’ children (3-6 year olds can be unaccompanied, under 3’s are welcome with an accompanier), in a fantastic play area.  There are also many well equipped child changing areas for parents with younger children.  The future of aviation lies in the hands of these youngsters, and it is fantastic to see them so well cared for at Aero.

So, if you have not been to Aero before, put note in your diary for next year, and take the family!