An Update on the Evolution of the Tanker Boom


Miguel-Angel Morrell Fuentes, Senior Vice President Engineering, provided an update of the evolution of the Airbus Military tanker technology during the Airbus Trade Media event in mid-May.

06/13/2011 – Although the company is working on elements for a next generation boom, the focus of the briefing was upon changes in the boom associated with this year’s activities. Here Morrell discussed changes, which are funded by the company as well as requests from the A330MRTT customer base.  This customer base is diversified and includes the UK, Australia, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia.   A key foundation for boom changes is associated with the fact that the boom is operated at the front of the aircraft from the flight deck.  As a result, changes are in process for allowing the operator to have more accurate VISUAL information by which to manage his tasks. Improvements in boom dynamic overlays are a key element of the development process.  The company is working on improvements, which allow for better display of relevant boom information.  Such information is associated with the operation of the telescope boom during deployment and the actual flight conditions affecting boom deployment.  The effort is to provide better direct image appreciation of the boom flight situation.  Obviously, such information will improve boom operational security as well.

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Photo Credit: Airbus Military

Another development of note is improving the ability of the flight crew to avoid landing with the boom deployed.  The company is developing a secondary hoist to work as a backup to the main boom hoisting system.  This new system will increase the reliability of the system and reduce as well the risk of landing with the boom mast deployed.  The new system will be controlled through the Boom Control Unit or BCU, which will use dedicated functions to manage the boom.

A secondary motor that has been installed to avoid landing with the boom fully engaged. It’s something that we have developed, and it’s already installed in one of our aircraft for one of our customers; and all of this is monitored by the boom control unit and provides additional functionality. And it has been developed in the last year, and now it’s ready to be embodied in the aircraft.

There is also an extension retraction stick improvement for the boom.

There have been mechanical and software modifications designed to improve the Human Machine Interface (HIM) characteristics as well.

Another development effort of note is shaping a new approach to training boom operators.  Here the effort is to forge virtual links between the center at Airbus Military in Spain and customers, such as those in Australia for training and simulation purposes.

There is also the development of a new in-flight training simulator.  This is an augmented reality application, which allows new training concept operations with a real boom in the background and inserting virtual or synthetic receives in real time for the training process.

And as a measure of boom development progress, he noted, “We already have more than 35 patents already to protect our products related to the boom.”