RETROFIT analysed the possibilities and attractiveness to retrofit the large existing fleet of commercial airliners with new technical solutions. A new generation of airliners is on the horizon. Existing aircraft still have a long life to serve. But the operational environment is changing. Airlines are confronted with emission trading limits, new noise rules, increasing fuel prices and new safety and security demands. Aircraft need to operate in a new ATM environment where older aircraft cannot comply with the new ATM standards. Furthermore, the passengers expect to enjoy the highest levels of comfort possible.
The project addressed the stakeholder requirements first. Based on that, it investigated current and future technology options to retrofit existing aircraft. The need to perform additional research to make retrofits attractive were addressed, as well as the question if specific research activities should be integrated in the Framework Programmes. The issue of design for retrofit were addressed. Special attention was given to certification as modified aircraft should be accepted as derivatives of existing types in order to keep certification time and costs as low as possible.
A cost benefit analysis was made, based on existing airline fleets and potential applications of new technical solutions. It resulted in an assessment which airplanes can be retrofitted with what new technologies.
Furthermore, an assessment was made about funding mechanisms for promising business cases. The results of the project were widely disseminated. Promising cases led to a substantial economic activity in many European countries.
The following key results regarding new technologies for existing airplanes have been identified:
Following a workshop with stakeholders, researchers developed an inventory of candidate present and future technologies compatible with retrofit. These were then evaluated in light of certification to determine if proposed changes are feasible or if certification becomes a bottleneck to implementation. Three promising mature retrofit technologies were subjected to a cost-benefit analysis.
The first technologies comprised avionics designed for compatibility with technology and operational guidelines developed by the ambitious 'Single European Sky ATM research' (SESAR) project to meet future capacity and air safety needs. Scientists also evaluated new high bypass-ratio engines for existing A320 aircraft and technology for taxiing by internal power.
Retrofit results to date have led to numerous recommendations, among them specific issues to be addressed by EU-funded research programmes:
- First, any project to develop technology for new aircraft should include a work package addressing the potential for retrofitting.
- Second, the European Commission should stimulate research on virtual testing and encourage virtual certification to decrease the time and cost of certification of aircraft retrofitted with new technology.
- Finally, specific retrofit topics should be encouraged by including feasibility studies, maturing technologies and integration of retrofit technologies in the next call of the research and technology development (RTD) Framework Programme.
Retrofit is expected to enhance the uptake of new and beneficial technologies in existing aircraft by focusing on those compatible with retrofit of the existing European commercial fleet. Such action will have important benefits for the airline industry, consumers and the environment.
- Innovating for the future: technology and behaviour.
- Promoting more sustainable development.