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'Airbus Explored' - Part Three

The Airbus site in Filton, Bristol

We've been given special, behind the scenes access to one of the South West's biggest employers. We will be giving you an insight into various departments from across the Airbus site in Filton. Part Three of our series involves the Fuel Testing Facility.

The Fuel Testing facility at Airbus in Filton is where staff aim to develop the fuel systems of the future. 

They have a large facility - which is essentially a big building with a roof and no sides -  where they can test different aspects of current fuel systems as well as trying to develop ones for the future, and also have a design office on site where they do all of the fuel systems design work. 

''We run a number of different research projects looking at different technologies - some looking at how we can improve current Airbus products in service - and some of them looking more to the future in terms of what does the future of aviation look like, what are the technologies that we need to have ready in order to support that'' said Ollie McGregor, Head of Fuel Research and Technology. 

''The projects we run are often collaborative, where we work with our suppliers, universities around the country and also the Government. In terms of how and why we do it, it's usually a case of identifying technologies which can bring improvement to current products or towards the next step, whatever that might be''.

''We also have to work with suppliers to find out who has the right capabilities to help us develop those, and then securing some sort of funding source or agreement. Then we go through a fairly standard engineering development process to take this technology from low levels of maturity to then go through testing, analysis and eventually producing something that we can put on an aircraft to fly, test and make sure it works the way we want it to'' Ollie said. 

In a normal development process, the team will do a certain amount of rig testing on the system in question, as well as modelling and simulation as well. The process can then be moved on so that testing can begin on an actual aircraft. 

The majority of Airbus aircraft are built and assembled in Toulouse, so staff from the Filton team are often sent there in order to help out with the testing on aircraft whilst they're on the ground or when they're in flight. 

There's also a team in Bristol that specifically look at trying to make the fuels that the company use as environmentally friendly as possible. 

''There's a strong trend to move towards sustainable, green fuels, and we are supporting that through our team in Bristol. They are dedicated to the coordination across Airbus of the clearances of new fuels and fuel types, so that we can make sure our aircraft operate in the cleanest ways possible, using the most recent fuel technologies'' said Ollie. 

''In parallel with that, we also run a lot of research. We've got some big projects running at the moment looking at future fuel types, so things like bio-fuels, which are becoming more common. We already fly our aircraft with a blend of bio-fuels, but we're looking to move towards a situation where we can have 100% bio-fuel on the aircraft''. 

''We need to look at how we can make things like that more sustainable and reduce the environmental impact'' he added. 

Press play on the clip below to hear Ollie talk more on the subject. 

More recently, the fuel testing team in Filton have more than played their role in making history. 

Back in mid-October, the company helped design and deliver a brand new model of aircraft, that went on to make history by becoming the longest continuous commercial flight available to passengers.

One of their A350-900 Ultra Long Range (ULR) aircraft flew almost 19 hours non-stop between Singapore and New York, covering around 15,000km. 

To allow the aircraft to operate for that period of time, staff had to make several complicated changes to some of the planes parts - some of which were completed in Bristol. 

Press play below to hear Ollie talk about the role that staff in Filton played in enabling the design of this ground-breaking aircraft. 

Make sure you come back for the fourth part of our 'Airbus Explored' series, where we will be finding out about the team behind the A400M - the most advanced airlifter currently available that helps support our Armed Forces. 

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