Hispano-Suiza on board the KC-390

Safran was selected by the Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer to supply the electrical power distribution and back-up power generation systems on its new KC-390 military transport aircraft. This represents a real challenge for the electrical energy system specialist, which has broadened its field of expertise for the requirements of this program. It marks yet another step towards “more electric” aircraft.

It is no coincidence that Hispano-Suiza (Safran) is working on the KC-390. Two key factors played their role: firstly, Embraer was interested in working with new suppliers in the field of electrical power generation and distribution and, secondly, Hispano-Suiza responded to this requirement by putting forward an innovative range, through the Safran Power division.
The contract was officially announced in November 2011 and includes the supply of the primary and secondary electrical distribution systems as well as the RAT (Ram Air Turbine), a back-up electrical generation system.

Increasingly electric aircraft
The primary electrical power distribution system (PEPDS) is the heart of an aircraft's electrical system. It encompasses the energy generated by all power sources on the aircraft and ensures that this energy is available for all aircraft systems by intelligently managing the network. The secondary power distribution system (SPDS) provides electrical power for equipment that can be turned on or off as need according to the flight phase, such as interior/exterior lighting and the cabin air management system. For these two systems, Hispano-Suiza is working with Safran Electronics for the electronic circuit boards, and Labinal (Safran) for the design and manufacture of electronic boxes. As regards the RAT*, "this system was listed in Safran's product catalog, but we were able to incorporate it thanks to the acquisition of Aerosource, which provided us with an off-the-shelf product. This enabled us to offer an adapted, competitive solution to Embraer," said Jérôme Tourdiat, the KC-390 Program Manager at Hispano-Suiza.

A tight schedule
The thing that tipped the balance in Hispano-Suiza's favor, on top of their ability to adjust the system design as the program evolves, was the use of an integration test bench capable of simulating all the equipment operations. "This tool will allow us to test the complete electrical energy system, comprising power generation, primary and secondary distribution and usage. The tool will be used for part of the certification tests which are normally carried out by the aircraft manufacturer," explained Jérôme Tourdiat. This contract represents a major challenge for Hispano-Suiza, since it involves significantly stepping up expertise and capacity, while meeting a tight schedule. At the beginning of the year, the company recruited staff with the requisite skills to meets these new requirements. The preliminary design review took place in June; it will be followed by the detailed review scheduled for the beginning of next year, with the delivery of the first prototype planned for the end of 2013.

The strength of the Group
Other Safran companies are also working on the KC-390: Messier-Bugatti-Dowty was selected for the brakes and landing gear and Sagem for the horizontal stabilizer trim control system**. The three companies and Safran's Director of Programs for Brazil convened once a month to discuss their work with Embraer. "These meetings enable us to gain a better understanding of the customer's expectations. Despite the distance separating us, we have a very productive relationship with the customer. Discussions are quite open, so we can always find a common ground in order to move forward, find joint solutions and keep the schedule on track.

*Located at the nose of the aircraft, this system is deployed in the event of an electrical failure and operates like a wind turbine.

** The horizontal stabilizer trim control system enables the pilot to control the horizontal stabilizer trim as efficiently as possible to keep the aircraft's attitude stable, while also minimizing the aerodynamic control forces to fly the plane.