An engine starts up and propellers slowly start rotating. Off they go, running, backpack, books or helmet under arm, to reach in time the heliport square inside the former Pirelli industrial warehouses (today renovated and modernized buildings of the Polytechnic of Milan), their nose in the air, smartphone ready to grab the scene with their eyes squinting against the gusts of wind. From September 12 to 15, for the engineering students attending the Bovisa Campus of the Polytechnic of Milan days were fill with excitement due to take-off and landing of the latest helicopter models produced by Leonardo Helicopters, which this year is an organizer and promoter of the European Rotorcraft Forum.
The famous specialist and technical conferences event, now in its 43rd edition, was hosted in Lombardy's capital precisely in in the Bovisa Campus. Polytechnic of Milan indeed is among the most recognized universities worldwide because of its interaction with the helicopters sector. Every day there were work sessions, presentations, testimonials from engineers, pilots, spanning aerodynamics, mechanics, design. This edition came concurrently with the 28th European Chapter of the Society of Flight Test Engineers Symposium, which was focused mainly on "Shaping the Future of Flight Testing". On the last day, the agenda provided an exclusive visit to the Leonardo Helicopters factory in Vergiate, where the greatest part of helicopters from the now former Agusta Westland are produced.
Avio Aero participated in the event together with companies and experts from all over the world, as well as the greatest players in the market: Safran, Airbus Helicopters, Boeing, Bell and Russian Helicopters, just to name a few. "Participating in this forum has significant meaning for our design engineers cause it allows us to stay up-to-date on the best current helicopters technologies and even on the future evolution", commented Francesco Manciagli, Helicopter Sales Director for Avio Aero. "During these days, not only did we cultivate our relationships with customers and suppliers, but we also dealt with topics of technological innovation and exchanged experiences to create a vision for the future of the rotating wing sector." Avio Aero has been designing and producing accessory control transmissions and main gearboxes since 50 years for helicopter manufacturers such as Sikorsky, Airbus Helicopters and Leonardo, supplying engines for the most contemporary helicopters serving Italian Air Force, like AW101 and NH90.
Speaking of future challenges, it is worth mentioning the effort being spent on the new fast rotorcraft, dubbed Racer during the latest Paris Air Show, by Airbus Helicopter as part of the Clean Sky program. For this innovative helicopter Avio Aero is developing the main and lateral gearboxes, the main gearbox is one of the three fundamental helicopter components. The main transmission, driven by the engine, controls and allows the rotor to keep the helicopter in the air and also, in an event of failure, exploiting the inertia it supports vital emergency manoeuvres.
"We have a prestigious tradition, in Europe and in Italy, both in terms of industry and innovation in this sector. Efficiency and availability are the two key words to raise the level of helicopter industrial development", says Fabio Nannoni, Head of R&D at Leonardo Helicopters and Chairman of the ERF Organizing Committee for this edition. "Of course, the industry must remain firmly set on the goals we have long pursued in terms of reducing emissions, including noise, and reducing fuel consumption. And let's not forget that in the coming years, Industry 4.0 will provide us with important opportunities in industrial transformation, processes and design."
We also talked about the industrial internet of things (IIoT) and digital transformation with an acclaimed expert, Marco Taisch, Professor of Operations Management and Advanced & Sustainable Manufacturing at the Polytechnic of Milan.