Taking to the skies for the latest aircraft innovations

Senior reporter

It’s Paris Air Show week and in the traditional competition between the world’s two biggest aircraft manufacturer, Airbus is off to a flying start with the announcement of 50 A320s and 20 A380s sold already. But the real interest this week will be in demand for the firm’s first plane to be made from over 50 per cent composite material, the A350XWB, which conducted its maiden test flight on Friday.

Airbus has claimed the A350 is 25 per cent more fuel efficient than typical competitor craft, putting it into contention with the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which has suffered several “teething” problems with electrical fires related to its lithium ion batteries in the last year (although Boeing has already announced an order for 10 Dreamliners this morning).

Paris will also be a chance to check out some more futuristic innovations. Airbus’s parent company EADS will be showcasing its latest developments in electric propulsion, which include a fully electric training aircraft propelled by two electric motors running ducted fans mounted on the fuselage. Read the full story here.

In the hope of fostering more aerospace innovation in Britain, the government has announced the allocation of £25m of research for the sector today. The money, to be distributed by the Technology Strategy Board, will be matched by winning small and medium aerospace suppliers looking to develop new technologies consistent with the government’s aerospace industrial strategy, which focuses on aerodynamics, propulsion, aerostructures and advanced electronic systems.

Across the Atlantic, the solar-powered plane attempting to fly across America has completed the penultimate leg of its journey by landing in Washington DC yesterday despite difficult weather conditions that forced the pilots to make some dramatic changes to their flight plan.

Solar Impulse took off from St Louis on Friday but strong cross and head winds meant the craft, flown by its Swiss pilots Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, couldn’t reach the US capital within 24 hours and had to make a pit-stop in Cinncinati before resuming its journey.

The final leg of the voyage will be attempted early next month when the pair will head for New York, completing the cross-continental journey that began in San Francisco in May.

And finally, away from aerospace, the Royal Academy of Engineering is gearing up for a conference on medical technology innovation on Wednesday that will showcase the latest developments in the sector.

Experts will discuss innovations including biological scaffolds for tissue repair and regeneration, work on medical robots and modern prosthetics, and will predict which technologies NHS patients should expect to see in the next five to 10 years.