Born: Poland
Primarily active in: France

From Leadership Profile: Vertiflite May/June 2021

Tomasz Krysinski, Vice President Research and Innovation, Airbus Helicopters

At the head of a distributed Airbus Helicopters Research and Innovation organization, Tomasz Krysinski draws on talent from Airbus centers in Marignane, France, and Donauwörth, Germany, and from organizations and locations outside the company. He observed, “We have people from Airbus Helicopters, people from startups, people from our partner suppliers. In many areas, we cannot do innovation alone. In all the projects, we have a mixture.” The flexible research organization also interfaces with Airbus Helicopters’ programs, production and marketing arms. “The exchange helps us align our orientation for the choices we are making,” said Krysinski. “We must bring new technology to the maximum number of our customers.”

Technology projects now underway include the Flightlab H130 testbed, H160 medium-twin helicopter, RACER high-speed compound helicopter, and CityAirbus electric ducted-fan demonstrator — all have different time horizons. Krysinski noted, “Short-term, we have 12,000 helicopters flying all over the world. We must bring new technology, new innovation to those helicopters. We are also preparing for the new programs — our mid-term aircraft — now going through flight demonstrations. We have longer-term initiatives going for high speeds or hybrid-electric drive.” Krysinski summarized, “All things must bring value to our customers.”

Research and Innovation projects also address broader themes. “Safety is of course the key area at Airbus of major importance to us,” explained Krysinski. “Then, of course, is the cost of operation, because we must make all of our products accountable to the customer so they see the value. For the environment, we are very proud at Airbus that we are really pushing for zero-emissions flight, and for helicopters that reduce not only fuel burn but noise. You can notice on our H160 we have the Blue Edge concept — this is really fantastic in noise reduction. Everything, of course, must be affordable.”

Krysinski served as chief engineer for the Airbus X3 compound helicopter and now aims to refine the high-speed vision with the RACER — which stands for “Rapid and Cost-Effective Rotorcraft” — under the European Clean Sky 2 initiative. He explained, “this was the reason for X3 and its successor the RACER: speed must be done with normal operating costs. In the RACER, we have an aircraft which is not more complicated than the normal helicopters. The differences are limited — we have the main rotor, the propellers, the main gearbox, but we can fly 50% faster. In one hour, we cover 50% more distance, so the productivity of the aircraft should be better than the normal helicopter. That’s what we want to bring to the market — the cost-efficiency of speed.”

Engineer Ethos
Tomasz Krysinski grew up in the city of Lodz in central Poland, the son of mechanical engineer and university professor Jan Krysinski. The senior Krysinski ultimately headed the Institute of Turbomachinery at the Lodz University of Technology (Politechnika Łódzka). The Airbus VP recalled, “My father built in 1963 or ‘64 the first turbine to turn the pumps of Polish fire brigades. It was able to throw three tonnes of water in one minute. He told me, ‘Look how it saved the lives of people.’ As a young kid, I was highly motivated to protect people. My motivation when I go to work every day is our helicopters are saving lives, helping people; that’s something that wakes me up every morning.”

As an engineering student in Poland, Krysinski had only a passing connection to aviation. “I studied under professors who designed the first aircraft in Poland after the Second World War.” The PWS-40 Junak propeller-driven trainer equipped the Polish Air Force through the 1950s. “One of my professors designed the structures and taught me how to make things light and all the elements you needed to apply — aeromechanics, stability of the aircraft.” Krysinski noted, “It’s really important when you have a good teacher who motivates you.”

Upheaval in Europe presented new opportunities. Krysinski explained, “I started my engineering career in Poland and studied in Poland, but it was the period of Solidarity in the ‘80s, and I left the country to attend engineering school in France.” The émigré student passed physics and mathematics exams for Master’s studies at the École Nationale Supérieure d’Arts et Métiers (ENSAM) in Paris. Krysinski said, “My French was very poor, but fortunately equations are international. Of course, my English was also very poor, but when I joined the school I was well accepted. It was extraordinary the way I was accepted in France. I made many friends, and they helped me a lot. We’re still friends 40 years later.”

France also offered specialized propulsion engineering studies at École Nationale Supérieure du Pétroles et des Moteurs in Rueil-Malmaison. Krysinski explained, “I studied engines because of family tradition. I liked the transformation going from pure energy to mechanical energy, the thermodynamics. I wanted to go where engines make things move. I started in the shipyard with big ships for one year. It was a beautiful experience with big engines — 20,000 hp turning one revolution per second.” Coincidence nevertheless provided a new direction. “One day, I saw a helicopter landing on the beach to unload passengers, and I said, ‘How beautiful.’” Krysinski knew French national helicopter maker Aérospatiale needed engineers, “So I wrote a letter and was invited for an interview, and that’s how my helicopter career started.”

Krysinski started at Aérospatiale modeling rotors and rotor mechanics. “One of my first jobs was when we still produced Gazelle helicopters. I was asked by my boss in aeromechanics to model a change in the blades.” Diligent work earned the new engineer an assignment at the company flight test center to change the position of the horizontal stabilizer on the Gazelle. Krysinski recalled, “At the flight test center, I had my dictionary, but ‘horizontal stabilizer’ was not in there.” I got a pilot to explain the situation to me. I knew right then he immediately called our technical director and asked ‘Who did you send me?’” An all-night effort generated a plan to incline the helicopter stabilator to unload the main rotor. “It was my first success in this area.”

The Aérospatiale design office gave Krysinski more chances to do rotor computations, and it brought him into contact with German engineers during the Eurocopter merger with Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm (MBB). “I was very open-minded to external work, speaking several languages, so I was quickly enlisted in relations with MBB. They had worked with Aérospatiale in the past, and it was a fantastic period. Mixing the cultures between engineers, you learn a lot. You can give your opinion. If you disagree, it’s excellent. Either you can change your mind or vice-versa. I had the pleasure of meeting very brilliant MBB designers, Helmut Huber, Dr. Dieter Braun and Heiniger Strehlow. For me it was a fantastic period, this merger of the companies, the merger of the cultures as well.”

The merger in 1988 gave Krysinski an important role on Eurocopter’s first joint product, the Tiger attack helicopter. “One of the most important items was vibration. I was in charge of the anti-vibration device called SARIB — it’s a soft suspension which disconnects the gearbox from the fuselage. For me, it was a fabulous experience between the calculation, the design, the laboratory tests, the shake tests and the flight tests. It was then that I learned the power of the cooperation — the key power of Airbus is really the cooperative spirit. I learned the most important lesson is the diversity of culture.”

Racing to Market
One late work night, Eurocopter design chief Philippe Roesch showed Krysinski a preliminary drawing of what would become the X3 high-speed compound helicopter (originally designated the X³ or “X-Cubed”). Krysinski became X3 chief engineer. “We prepared the project very quickly and got agreement of the top management.” The highly modified Dauphin with anhedral lifting wings and auxiliary tractor propellers flew for the first time on Sept. 6, 2010. Krysinski noted, “From the drawing to the flight, that 2½ years, I took, I think, three days of holiday [vacation], and we were working two shifts. Fortunately, my wife was supportive. I was in the office with the first shift at six o’clock in the morning and left after the second shift at 10 o’clock at night. It was a tremendous experience in teamwork.” The highly modified Dauphin achieved 255 kt (472 km/h) in level flight and 263 kt (487 km/h) in a descent.

X3 lessons shaped the RACER, which will soon start final assembly for flight tests next year at the German armed forces flight test center at Manching Air Base, north of Munich (and east of Airbus Germany’s Donauwörth facilities). “RACER is the logical consequence of the X3,” said Krysinski. “We made a lot of improvements. First, we have the box-wing with much less downwash effect, so we improve performance in the hover. We settled on pusher propellers which reduce the power needed in forward flight. RACER also has an interesting start-and-stop mode. You can stop one engine in flight and continue at 190 kt [350 km/h] due to the specific behavior of the rotor.”

Early this year, Airbus unveiled its H130 testbed to experiment with a range of helicopter technologies. Krysinski explained, “We have our flying laboratory, Flightlab, where — in a very efficient way — our prototyping and flight test people can put in flight very quickly all the ‘technobricks’ which can bring these technologies to market very quickly. I’m thinking about, for instance, our RSAS Rotor Strike Alerting System, which allows much better awareness of the pilot around the helicopter. We are testing a very advanced health-and-usage-monitoring system based on digital accelerometers. We are also doing noise measurements to better predict the trajectories of aircraft in flight and better understand what is the impact of noise on the population on the ground. We are testing functions related to autonomy like the Eagle guidance and landing camera on the nose of the helicopter to capture images and artificial intelligence processing and detection, coupled with the automatic pilot, which allows us automatic landings.”

Krysinski continued, “Very soon, we will test the hybrid-electric system for single-engine aircraft, which will help with autorotation and help with noise. This is also one of the first signs of electrification coming to the helicopter. We are very happy that at Airbus we are investing in electric flight. We’ve already tested two concepts: one is Vahana and the second is CityAirbus, currently undergoing testing in Manching. There are 200 eVTOL startups around the world, but we are the only ones with an aircraft with reasonable mass and a really useful load.

“We firmly believe by working on this concept, electric flight will come. There is big progress — I call it converging technology — in batteries, which are getting lighter and lighter; electric motors, where specific power obtained per kilogram is much better; new materials for the fuselage, which make it very, very light; and we have all the sensors and computers that are very light to provide redundancy. All those converge to make electric flight possible.”

Tomasz Krysinski joined the then-American Helicopter Society in 1989, and the Board of Directors last year; he will become President of VFS after Forum 77. He observed, “The great value of VFS is connecting with the passionate VTOL community, sharing experience and knowledge and meeting extraordinary people and pioneers.”