Paris Air Show 2019 – Celebrating our people and history, and getting excited about the future

By Jason Chua, Executive Director of United Technologies Advanced Projects

Every time that I’ve gone to the Paris Air Show, I am reminded of just how much innovation is woven into the aerospace industry, and also of how many opportunities there are to push our industry ahead. This year, as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing—a leap forward made possible the tremendous innovators at United Technologies Corporation (UTC)—this sense of history and future opportunity seems especially palpable. I’m excited to be a part of a company that’s charting the next great milestones in our industry’s history books. And those milestones were front and center at our pavilion at this year’s Paris Air Show.

But how do companies like UTC innovate what’s next? At UTC, we’ve set up dedicated teams tasked with making the future a reality. Earlier this year, we took a first step in that direction by launching the company’s advanced projects organization, an in-house skunkworks, built for speed, and combining the best aspects of both startup and UTC culture. In doing so, UTC can better compete directly with other disruptors, be they venture-backed startups or other corporations, and rapidly build and pressure test new product architectures and disruptive business models.

United Technologies Advanced Projects (UTAP), as the organization is called, draws talent and inspiration from across the entire UTC portfolio, as well as external sources, to build and pilot ambitious product and service demonstrators. Project teams are co-located within UTC’s existing footprint so as to best leverage our talent and facilities, ensure our ability to readily transition projects, and infuse our startup-like culture into the core business. By creating a team that’s able to disrupt from within, UTC is able to explore new opportunities that will shape the future of aerospace.

An overview of the hybrid-electric flight demonstrator and its potential for future aerospace. Click to watch the video.

Despite 2019 being its first full year of existence, UTAP hit the ground running with its first public project, a hybrid-electric flight demonstrator. Called “Project 804,” this project is re-engining one side of a regional turboprop aircraft with a 2MW hybrid propulsion system that draws upon the high-power electrical systems expertise of Collins Aerospace, and the aircraft propulsion expertise of Pratt & Whitney. As a matter of fact, the namesake “804” refers to the straight-line mileage between the two major project sites, near Pratt & Whitney’s facility in Longueuil, Québec, and Collins’ facility in Rockford, Illinois. The need for more sustainable propulsion technology is clear and we at UTC have the technology, resources, and expertise to explore this new frontier.

One of many new technologies on display at this year’s UTC Paris Air Show pavilion, Project 804 is the embodiment of UTAP’s efforts to harness the world-class talent and expertise that exists across the company’s storied brands. Flanked by displays of Collins Aerospace and Pratt & Whitney innovations, Project 804 was brought to life through a physical model and digital displays depicting the hybrid-electric X-plane.

A close up of our model at UTC’s air show pavilion showing off the tech behind the Project 804 demonstrator.

As I reflect on my time at the 2019 Paris Air Show, I keep returning to something that UTC’s chairman and CEO, Greg Hayes, is fond of saying, “Companies don’t innovate, people do.” I’m proud to be a part of UTC and, by extension, proud to help push the boundaries of what’s possible, drive our industry ahead, and strive to make our world a better place.

Jason Chua is the Executive Director of United Technologies Advanced Projects (UTAP), a startup-like organization at the heart of UTC. He oversees projects focused on rapidly building ambitious product and service demonstrators. Click here to connect with Jason.