Pontifications: Airbus teams with Georgia Tech for MBSE role

  • See LNC’s holiday publication schedule at the end of this column.

By Scott Hamilton

Dec. 17, 2018, © Leeham News: Airbus has joined with Georgia Institute of Technology to open a technical center for Model-Based Systems Engineering (MBSE) for Overall Aircraft Design (OAD).

The Georgia Tech Center opened in October.

It’s an expansion of the Airbus footprint in the growing US Southeast aerospace footprint.

It’s also a step in transforming Airbus’ design technology, an effort that’s been underway in cooperation with European universities and institutes.

Airplanes for the future

In an interview last month, Amanda Simpson, VP of research and technology for Airbus Americas, said that MBSE is independent of aircraft design.

Simpson said MBSE is used by Airbus to decide what aircraft design ideas may be optimized.

“It helps do trades” of designs and instead of doing the trades, “it goes all the way to optimize aircraft designs,” she said.

For example, MBSE can identify ways to avoid sub-optimal designs.

“MBSE allows a better evaluation of all concepts,” she said. “Airbus is building an eco-system of the best of the best.”

Georgia Tech joins Airbus partners, including the University of Michigan, the University of Southampton and others around the globe.

While Boeing’s close collaboration with NASA over the decades is widely known, less so is that Airbus also uses NASA resources.

“Airbus, like Boeing, is a global company and purchases services from around the globe,” Simpson said. “Some small research work, limited in scope,” is purchased from NASA.

Making decisions

Airbus, like other aerospace companies, uses MBSE to look at overall designs, details, sub-assemblies and materials. Simpson said MBSE can help decide whether to use composites or metals and round or ovoid shapes for fuselages.

The analytical models and locations have to be able to “talk to each other,” she said. “This is the system we’re taking to the Georgia Tech Center.”

Initially, Georgia Tech will focus on designs and flight physics. Later, a new contract will add manufacturing and production analysis.

“This could be an overarching architect to make intelligent, fact-driven decisions,” Simpson said. “This is about modernizing to make computer systems for design.”

But, she said, this is not a response to Boeing’s years-long effort to transform its design, manufacturing and production systems.

“This is Airbus trying to be the most efficient for our customers,” she said.

Still, just last week, Reuters reported that a major review of Airbus’ strategy is underway in advance of Guillaume Faury’s advancement from Airbus Commercial president to CEO of Airbus Group.

“Some analysts say it has fallen behind Boeing in manufacturing techniques – a gap that could grow if Boeing launches a mid-market jet with a new factory system,” Reuters wrote. “Executives are warning Airbus must not find itself lacking in proven technology for the A320’s successor after 2030, as it had been in wide-bodies when Boeing launched its 787.”

The initial Georgia Tech contract is for five years.

MBSE isn’t new

MBSE is not new. It’s been around for years. The National Defense Industrial Assn. defined MBSE in 2011:

  • “Model-Based Engineering (MBE): An approach to engineering that uses models as an integral part of the technical baseline that includes the requirements, analysis, design, implementation, and verification of a capability, system, and/or product throughout the acquisition life cycle.” Final Report, Model-Based Engineering Subcommittee, National Defense Industrial Assn., Feb. 2011.

Lockheed Martin presented an outline of MBSE in 2015.

 Holiday publication schedule

Leeham News will not public on Dec. 24-26 or Dec. 31-Jan. 1 in observance of the Christmas-New Year holidays.

LNC begins its 2019 Outlook series Dec. 20. These all will be Paywall articles.

  • 20: Airbus
  • Dec 21: Boeing
  • 27: Bombardier/Viking
  • 28: Embraer
  • 3: Mitsubishi
  • 7: Irkut
  • 8: ATR

As always, if there is breaking news, LNC will publish irrespective of our planned time off.

14 Comments on “Pontifications: Airbus teams with Georgia Tech for MBSE role

  1. I think it is smart to invest in knowledge & network like this. You tap into new people ideas and creativity to confront other people working in the same areas. And the alumni will spread out & you ‘ll meet them later.

    Boeing did the same in the Netherlands when there was a n upturn in thermoplastics Airbus benefited from. Delft is a main aerospace university hub in Netherlands, but Twente is a smaller university, ambitious and there are some industries R&D locations (NLR) on that side of the country. A smart move in the specialists / IP battle.


    Secondairy Univeristy programs like Georgia Tech & Twente are lean & agile and do a lot with a few million in funding.

  2. Go Tech!

    I did my PhD (Computer Science) at GaTech… a while ago 🙂

    In my first years there i used to go to the computer clusters hosted by the department of aeronautical engineering since they had NeXT machines for CAD design (i used at Carnegie Mellon U. before to work deep into the NeXT unix MACH OS kernel on light weight kernel processes — long story short this is what runs all Apple Macs+iphones/ipads deep under the hood today)

    You had there quite a few people Brazilians from Embraer doing their MS in AE on full Embraer/gov scholarships. These folks knew the chance they had been given and were working really really hard. I remember some of them quite fondly. For fun, i was optimizing some of their computation processes (//lizing/distributing). Got many nice Brazilian food dinners as rewards.

    Same for MS in CS folks from Petroleos de Venezuela. Many on scholarships too. I guess that brand of socialism probably did not do them much good over time. Poor folks. Some were also really hard workers.

    GaTech’s school regents in the late 80’s/early 90’s decided to capitalize on the schools excellence to push it forward. Very successfully indeed when we look back. Tech is one of the top 5 engineering school in the US now and still growing.

    GaTech is the ‘hidden’ gem in the south. And an early, very active supporter of more women in technology & science. Way before many.

    Go Tech!

  3. I like the approach. You get outside of the NIH syndrome and the head nodding (and sometimes outright tyranny of a department head)

    Different approaches, different ideas, some may cross, others are inherent to a whole design concept.

    Doesn’t matter if the tail wagged the dog here or the dog wagged the tail. It advance aeronautics and that is all to the good.

    I continue to be impressed with the A350 that to me looked like a weird approach to composites and I still scratch my head. Regardless of why Airbus got there, its worked and per Bjorn is equal to Boeings spun approach.

    The Airbus engineers pulled the rabbit out of the hat for the Airbus execs who had been asleep at the wheel.

    Down the road as manufacturing matures you can cross assess what the trade off of both methods are and you may find the A350 turns out to be superior (out of auto clave lending itself to the frame and panel system I think)

    Its a privilege to have seen the early days of successful aviation and where its gone and going.

    The age of steam would have been another one of those grand transition periods where suddenly the world change.

    • Boeing 787 uses internal longitudinal stringers and circular ring frames to support its carbon fibre skin sections . It and A350 are semi monocoque after all so need internal stiffening.
      This detailed story about the mainly 787 fuselage barrel production processes at Spirit at Wichita includes this:
      “The first interior structures installed
      are the circular frames (metallic and composite), which are attached to the stringers and the fuselage skin. ”
      I understand that Airbus suppliers stitch together the 4 panels for each section to create a barrel before -like Spirit- adding the internal ring frames

  4. Airbus heading towards, researching and teaching the way of designing aircraft, as well as building them. They’re becoming more American than ever before.

    Pretty hard to impose trade tarifs on them then.

  5. Atr 600 virgin Australia lost both turbines during rain storms going into Sydney but not at the same time.

    • Saw that, have to wonder if the igniter should not be in auto in rainstorms ?

  6. And as this is quiet on the topic, we have this one


    Interesting that despite Boeing philosophy of being able to override, in the case of the steering, the auto pilot would not allow that.

    More automation at work and how should it be programed to work?

    I can see the logic, but to have to shut off the autopilot then start steering seems beyond Boeing and in an emergency how viable?

    Landing off kilter and the shift to go around Manual mode would also be how bad and outcome? ie better what they did and loose as much speeds as possible.

    • If I am reading the follow up right, you can’t even select go around by turning things off.

      No sure if you can switch to take off mode .

      Boeing illogical sometimes you feel like a nut and sometimes you don’t looks to strike again.

  7. Bjrons Lead Article on Airbus is locked but not labeled Subscription Only.

      • Roger, good with it, understood, was interested and now my Holiday is ruined, ruined I say (que the drama queen)

        Actually more interested in the technical paywall ones (hint!)

        Best Wishes to All for the Holidays and hopefully a survivable year ahead.

        • Thanks Transworld, same to you. Enjoy your Xmas weather, my part of the world not a white Xmas, 35-38C. Looks like 2019 could be interesting.

          At least Santa seems to be pushing the oil price down.

  8. Airbus: Frankly the delivery end of Airbus issues were things they had no control over.

    RR/PW/GE (slip PW/RR if you want) were the impacts on the delivery failures no lack of execution on Airbus part.

    Boeing was also hit by the RR issues and much less GE. Again no reason to think RR wold have that massive a breakdown down (figuratively and literally) on their Trent engines.

    No question Airbus has management turbulence but the fact that the mfg area did what it was supposed to says a great deal about the mfg base being strong.

    Hopefully they can overcome that. While I question the A330NEO still, the A320/321/A220 and the A350 all are stellar aircraft.

    It looks to be an interesting couple of years ahead before it settles out to executing programs (whichever those are).

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