After the Christmas break, we are back up and running again here at the Advanced Structural Testing Centre. Testing is in full swing and we are currently just shy of reaching the 10 per cent mark in the current testing cycle we started just before Christmas. We have a long way to go yet but that doesn’t faze us. During the testing cycle we hear regular creaking from the airframe, but our ears certainly prick up when we hear something new and the aircraft has been making a few unusual noises we are not familiar with.
A creaking sound has been detected at the bulkhead of the aircraft where the baggage compartment is situated, so the client has come up to the Testing Centre to inspect the aircraft and see if they can shed any light to why this may be occurring.
Part of our job is to flag up anything out of the ordinary that we may find during testing and pass these on to the client. In addition, as our role is to test the aircraft and then provide the client data. The majority of our data that is logged onto graphs is consistent and symmetrical, but we get the odd data set where there may be an unexpected spike in the results and flags up a query for us to pass on to the client.
The client will then analyse this data and compare it to their model and give them the chance to inspect the airframe during testing, whilst the aircraft is active in the testing cycle.
For the previous two days, System Services have been at the ASTC. System Services are a technical support company for users of fluid power motion control systems who besides ourselves, work with major international companies such as BAE Systems, Jaguar, Moog and Rolls-Royce.
As we run the testing cycles for the aerobatic aircraft constantly, our hydraulic ring main system and power pack are under constant pressure. These systems have filters on which must be regularly maintained, so the oil within the system is cleaned constantly and meticulously. We have a three micron filter in place meaning there will be no dirt or sediment within the system bigger than three microns. Due to this, we use a specialist company such as System Services who specialise in the maintenance of test systems.
We work very closely with Steve Barrett from System Services as he has an immense wealth of experience and knowledge of the maintenance of test systems, so this gives us the chance to pick his brains whilst he is helping us out here at the ATSC. Shane has used Steve and his knowledge for 30 years after he worked alongside test systems based at the University of Sheffield. Besides his work involving the maintenance and calibration of test systems he also works as a trainer with a wealth of experience, so if we experience something we are unfamiliar with, there is a likelihood Steve will have had first-hand experience of it can help shed a bit of light for us.
As our systems are operating in tip-top condition, we will carry on running through the testing cycle as planned, ready to make any modifications requested by the client should their investigations into the unusual noises we picked up require it.