Spirit AeroSystems in wings deal for new Airbus 'multicopter'

BELFAST-based Spirit AeroSystems has signed off an a potentially lucrative deal to supply the wings for an innovative new aerial vehicle designed for city travel.

Spirit AeroSystems, formerly known as Bombardier and still one of the north's biggest companies by employee number, has been contracted by Airbus to be responsible for developing and manufacturing the wings for CityAirbus NextGen.

According to Airbus, the new "multicopter" - which was only unveiled at a summit last September - is an all-electric four-seat vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) vehicle, featuring a wing.

A multicopter is a mechanically simple aerial vehicle whose motion is controlled by speeding or slowing multiple downward thrusting motor/propeller units.

The fully electric craft is equipped with fixed wings, a V-shaped tail, and eight electrically powered propellers as part of its distributed propulsion system, and can to fly with an 80km (50 miles) range and to reach a cruise speed of 120km/h (75mph), making is ideal for city flying.

Airbus says its ambition is to achieve a minimum weight solution, while ensuring the highest levels of safety.

The structural concept of the eVTOL’s fixed wings will be able to transmit the related aerodynamic loads while being optimised for the right balance between hover and cruise efficiency.

CityAirbus NextGen’s distributed propulsion system will contribute to reducing the influence of air turbulence.

Jörg Müller, head of urban air mobility (UAM) at Airbus, said: “The partnership with Spirit AeroSystems is an important step for the development of CityAirbus NextGen and its wings are key structural components for flight efficiency.

“To build an optimized vehicle for cleaner and safer air transport, we are proud to onboard Spirit as a strategic partner who benefits from a proven track record in this field, and extensive experience in component quality and airworthiness.”

Spirit, whose global headquarters is in Wichita, Kansas, is one of the largest suppliers of aerostructures globally, and builds on years of manufacturing and delivery of major components and architecture solutions in the aviation industry.

Its long-standing relationship with Airbus includes the provision of fully integrated wings and wing elements for multiple Airbus commercial aircraft.

Extending the existing collaboration between Airbus and Spirit AeroSystems is being heralded as a further sign of the company’s commitment in the UK.