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By introducing the flight-path angle and track, as well as an energy cue, onto commercial-aircraft cockpit displays, Airbus test pilot Jean-Michel Roy and his team are improving the flight crew's situational awareness.
Leadership: Margaret Jenny
During her 10-year tenure as president of aviation standards organization RTCA, Jenny advanced the association’s reputation as a forum for industry and government collaboration on developing fundamental standards underlying avionic systems.
MRO: United Airlines
United developed a mobile app that connects its 6,000 line mechanics with everything they need to diagnose issues and get out-of-service aircraft flying again—all without touching a paper manual or a desktop computer.
Platform: Embraer E-Jet E2
Though it looks similar to Embraer’s original E-Jet series, the manufacturer’s E2 airliner family is substantially a new design, with major advances in aerodynamics, propulsion, avionics, flight controls and cabin defining a new benchmark for crossover jets.
Propulsion: Safran Aircraft Engines
Under Europe’s Clean Sky research program, Safran ground-tested a full-scale counter-rotating open-rotor engine, showing substantial savings in fuel burn over the latest commercial turbofans and achieving significant reductions on noise over past open-rotor engines.
Lead by Frederic Dehais, the neuroergonomics and human factors department at France’s ISAE-SupAero has played a key role in accelerating the progress of neuroscience-based ergonomics in improving safety by factoring in the strengths and weaknesses of a pilot's brain.
Technology & Innovation: Airbus Perlan Mission II
Jim Payne and Tim Gardner flew the Perlan 2 stratospheric sailplane to over 76,000 ft. on Sept. 2, 2018, over the Andes, eclipsing the altitude record set by a U-2 in 1989 and providing new insights into climate change and flight control at high altitudes.
Unmanned Systems: NASA, FAA, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems and Honeywell
The first FAA-approved flight of a large unmanned aircraft in controlled airspace without a chase plane, by NASA’s General Atomics MQ-9 Ikhana in June 2018, marked a milestone in maturing detect-and-avoid technology and integrating UAS into national airspace.
Best New Product: Perfect Point E-Drill
E-Drill fastener separation technology uses forceless electro-discharge machining to cut the heads from titanium, steel or nickel alloy fasteners in less than 10 sec., with a damage rate of less than 1%, setting a new MRO standard on the B-2 bomber.
Electronics/Avionics: KC-135 Real-Time Information in the Cockpit
A major survivability upgrade for the U.S. Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve KC-135 tanker fleet will be fielded years faster and millions of dollars cheaper thanks to an innovative acquisition approach leveraging an already certified situational-awareness upgrade and government-owned software.
Leadership: Leanne Caret, President and CEO, Boeing Defense, Space & Security
A series of strategic decisions put in place since Caret took over Boeing’s defense business in February 2016 laid the groundwork for three multibillion-dollar wins—the U.S. Air Force’s UH-1 replacement and T-X trainer and the Navy’s MQ-25 carrier-based unmanned tanker.
MRO: U.S. Air Force, Moog and South Dakota School of Mines and Technology
The U.S. Air Force’s 28thBomb Wing is using cold spray, a technology developed by the Army Research Laboratory, to repair the B-1 bomber, saving the service about $225,000 per panel. Cold spray blasts metallic powder into the substrate so forcefully that it bonds to the existing metal.
Operations: Royal Netherlands Air Force/Multinational Multi-Role Tanker Transport Fleet
Addressing an acute shortage of tanker aircraft in Europe, the Royal Netherlands Air Force is leading the creation of a multinational fleet of eight Airbus A330 MRTT tanker/transports to improve the interoperability and boost the capability of European air forces.
Safety: Lockheed Martin/U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory/Office of the Secretary of Defense
The Automatic Integrated Collision Avoidance System is the first fully integrated, all-aspect protection system for combat aircraft, preventing both midair and ground collisions. The Pentagon estimates the technology will save 57 F-16s and F-35s and 40 pilots through 2040.
Technology & Innovation: Rockwell Collins ESA Vision Systems F-35 Gen III Lightweight Helmet
Challenging development of the F-35’s helmet-mounted display, which replaces a traditional head-up display and improves pilot situational awareness, culminated in January 2018 with approval of the lightweight version for flight, clearing pilots under 136 lb. to fly the Joint Strike Fighter.
Unmanned Systems: Office of Naval Research/Aurora Flight Sciences AACUS
In live exercises, the Autonomous Aerial Cargo/Utility System helicopter developed by Aurora for the Office of Naval Research planned, navigated, avoided obstacles, selected landing zones and delivered supplies in unmapped environments in a compelling demonstration of autonomous capability.
Best New Product: Iceye
Finland’s Iceye launched the first commercial synthetic-aperture-radar cubesat in January 2018 and aims to have an 18-strong constellation in orbit by the end of 2020, capable of providing imagery of anywhere on Earth every 3 hr.—day, night and through clouds.
Launchers: Rocket Lab Electron
First to dive into the potentially fast-growing market for dedicated smallsat launches, privately owned Rocket Lab has entered commercial service with its innovative two-stage Electron rocket, which features battery power, 3D-printed engines and composite structures.
Leadership: Rick Ambrose, Executive Vice President, Lockheed Martin Space
Facing increasing pressure from an influx of startups, Ambrose has retooled Lockheed’s space division to deliver high-performance satellites at lower cost. He has opened a $300 million small-satellite factory while still winning orders for military missile warning and navigation satellites.
With thousands of satellites scheduled to be launched into increasingly cluttered low Earth orbit, LeoLabs is providing critical collision-avoidance services to operators by deploying a global network of phased-array radars able to track debris down to 2 cm in size.
Platforms: Iridium Communications
Iridium is poised to complete a two-year launch campaign with an eighth and final SpaceX flight to deploy its 75-member Iridium Next constellation. Replacing the existing 66-satellite network, this ushers in a new era in broadband service and aviation tracking.
Space Science: Mars Exploration Rovers
Launched in 2003 and designed to last just 90 days, NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover mission far exceeded expectations. Spirit operated for seven years and its sister rover Opportunity no less than 14 years, until it was seemingly silenced in June 2018 by a massive global dust storm.
Technology & Innovation: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency Hayabusa 2
Japan’s Hayabusa2 sample-return mission, which rendezvoused with the asteroid Ryugu in June 2018, has made a promising start, with the successful deployment and operation of three mini-rovers—one from the DLR and Onera—ahead of its first landing planned in early 2019.
Electronics/Avionics: Garmin International
Garmin has fielded more ADS-B installations than all other avionics manufacturers combined, ranging from entry-level units for light aircraft to full-function systems for business jets, helping operators meet the FAA’s looming Jan. 1, 2020,equipage deadline.
Leadership: Mark Baker, President & CEO, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association
From helping create flying clubs to welcoming drone pilots, AOPA under Baker has addressed declining private pilot numbers with initiatives including providing aviation education to high schools, lobbying for medical certification reform and helping rusty pilots get back in the cockpit.
MRO: Gulfstream Aerospace
Gulfstream continues to lead the industry in providing customer support for its aircraft, from turnkey maintenance to simplify ownership to dedicated airborne support teams, web-based support and mobile apps, a component repair center and a dozen company-owned service bases.
Platform: Bombardier Global 7500
Certified in 2018, the Global 7500 sets a new standard for business jets, with a four-section cabin, full-size kitchen and dedicated crew suite; advanced fly-by-wire and flight deck technology; and a 7,700-nm. range—enough to fly New York-Hong Kong or Singapore-San Francisco.
Propulsion: Pratt & Whitney Canada PW800
Sharing its core with the PW1000G geared turbofan, the PW800 entered service in 2018 on Gulfstream’s new G500. In the 13,000-16,000-lb.-thrust range, with low emissions, noise and vibration, the PW800 also has been picked to power the G600 and Dassault Falcon 6X.
Supplier Innovation: GE Aviation Catalyst Additive Manufacturing
GE’s Catalyst turboprop, which entered testingat the end of 2017 and is to fly in 2019 in Cessna’s Denali, makes the most use of additive manufacturing in an aircraft engine—12 3D-printed parts replacing 855 conventionally manufactured parts andsaving 5% weight.
Safety: Gulfstream Runway Overrun Awareness and Alerting System
Gulfstream took Honeywell’s Runway Awareness and Advisory System to a new level by using dynamic data, such as runway condition and predicted touchdown point, to gauge if there is enough runway to safely stop and, if not, to alert crews to go around.
With a lifelong passion for aviation, Paul Allen was the first of the technology barons to spend part of his fortune backing technology to enable less costly and more frequent access to space. In addition to funding the X Prize-winning SpaceShipOne, precursor to a new generation of commercial human-rated spacecraft, Allen funded development of the Stratolaunch air-launched space transport system.
As CEO of Airbus, Tom Enders has transformed the European aerospace giant from a cross-national conglomerate to an integrated company and made crucial product decisions across its commercial, defense and space units, including the successful launch of the A320neo family. His move to take control of Bombardier’s C Series program has changed the structure of the commercial aircraft industry.