Daher Looking To Greener Future
Daher will fly the collaborative EcoPulse demonstrator "by the end of this year at the latest" as the venerable aircraft manufacturer as it looks to continue to develop new technologies.
The family-owned company, which has been building airplanes for 111 years and in business for more than a century and a half, had its best year in sales terms in 2021. It sold 68 aircraft—51 across two TBM models and 17 Kodiaks. Of those 51 TBM sales, 38 were in North America.
But sustainability is a key preoccupation. The EcoPulse program, which is supported by France's CORAC civil aviation research council and also involves Safran and Airbus, sees the company providing a TBM 900 series testbed aircraft, as well as carrying out airworthiness and flight testing from its facility in Tarbes, France. Daher's data teams will also compile analysis of test results.
"We want to see how to manage high voltages within an aircraft, how to manage the balance between all the propulsion [systems]," Daher CEO Didier Kayat said during a presentation at EBACE. "We are learning a lot. We've already tested in static, and it performed that very well. It's not a product—it's a demonstrator. We are learning enough, and this is what we are going to take into account in order to develop our product roadmap for the future."
The EcoPulse design features six wing-mounted 50-kW electric engines operating alongside the TBM 900 series' standard nose-mounted Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6 powerplant. "We're going to see what is the blend between what is fossil energy to what is electric energy," Daher Aircraft division CEO Nicolas Chabbert said. "We also have an APU in the back which is supplementing the 350kW batteries that are going to be installed." The APU, he confirmed, is kerosene-powered.
But the company is not just pinning its decarbonization efforts on notional future platforms. At one end of their range of activities, Chabbert explained how the company is encouraging customers "to change, slightly, their behaviors,” such as by recommending they stick to an optimized cruise speed of 310 kts. in the newly released TBM 960, thereby producing a 10% fuel saving.
Meanwhile, Daher is creating three innovation hubs in France, which, Kayat said, will help keep the company's operations as responsible and sustainable as possible.
The hubs—which the company calls “Techcenters”—will be located at Tarbes, Nates and Toulouse, and will each mirror a different Daher division: aircraft, aerostructures and logistics. "The idea of these Techcenters is to locate all our know-how and R&D in each business line, but also to open it up to staffers, to experts, to academic partnerships," Kayat said.
Meanwhile, the acquisition of the former Stuart Aerostructures facility in Florida is expected to close at the beginning of July. "We were missing the metallic know-how in the U.S.," Kayat said. The site works mainly on structures for Boeing and Bombardier, and represents another piece of the jigsaw for Daher's North American laydown.