An aircraft that can transport between approximately 30 and 100 passengers, and is intended for short and medium haul flights can be considered to be a Regional Aircraft. With the advent of low cost airlines making regional air travel more popular than ever, passengers seek an improving inflight experience - not just in the smaller narrowbody twinjets such as the A320 and B737, but also in regional aircraft that serve the smaller airports.
Thanks to the implementation of new technologies designed, developed and demonstrated under Clean Sky 1 and 2, flying on regional aircraft is now more convenient, faster, quieter, smoother – and more environmentally acceptable for point-to-point travel in Europe.
By 2031, the development of Clean Sky 3's technologies for 2050, and even beyond, will be underway, further reinforcing Europe's technological and environmental supremacy in aviation's global marketplace. The challenge is that, in 2016, there was still some way to go to improve the passenger experience so that regional aircraft offer a comparable level of inflight comfort, free from noise and vibration, with a comfort level comparable or better than today’s modern jets and with a reliability of service well beyond today’s service into small and regional airports. Regional aircraft are sandwiched between two sets of competitors: Shortened versions of airliners at the top end, and larger aircraft within the Small Air Transport (SATs) category at the other end.
Another challenge is on the ground. Improving rail networks, especially those with high-speed trains, offer a compelling alternative without the laborious procedures associated with getting in and out of airports, security checks and delays caused by weather.
Therefore, regional aircraft have to "up their game" by improving the product, being more resilient to poor weather, making it easier to board and disembark, become lighter to reduce fuel burn, have better systems for more agile flight envelope characteristics, have improved airframe structures that reduce maintenance – plus many other features in place that bring significant improvement to the product side of regional air travel.
The Regional Aircraft IADP will focus on demonstrating and validating key technologies that will enable a 90-seat class turboprop aircraft to deliver breakthrough economic and environmental performance and superior passenger experience.
Regional aircraft are a key element of Clean Sky 2, providing essential building blocks towards an air transport system that respects the environment, ensures safe and seamless mobility, and builds industrial leadership in Europe. The Regional Aircraft IADP will bring technologies to a further level of integration and maturity than currently pursued in Clean Sky 1. The goal is to integrate and validate, at aircraft level, advanced technologies for regional aircraft so as to drastically de-risk their integration into future products.
An iron bird is a type of immobile "sister ship" aircraft that never flies, but stays in a hangar, undergoing constant analysis to monitor how systems, electrics and structures will perform in the future. It accumulates more simulated flying hours than its counterpart siblings, so we can monitor the performance of an aircraft further into the future than its airborne sister ships will ever fly.
Iron Birds used to only exist in physical form, but there are virtual iron birds too now. Both physical and virtual iron birds form an indispensable part of the Regional A/C Ground Demonstration Programme, used to integrate, optimise and validate the systems modification of the Flying Test Bed. The results of their simulations and ground testing will be essential to achieve the permit-to-fly.
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