Even the best laid plans…

We’ve had a fairly good week at the Advanced Structural Testing Centre since our last post. As mentioned the customer visited us to see the aerobatic aircraft in action on the whiffletree testing rig to check out an unusual creaking sound and to review the data sets captured every 10 cycles of fatigue.

The aircraft is assembled on the whiffletree in an asymmetric way to induce twisting into the wings and fuselage as the load is applied. To achieve these torsional loads, it is necessary to mount the whiffletree on the right wing in front of the centre of pressure (CoP), to induce the correct amount of ‘twist’ in the left wing that is mounted slightly behind the CoP. Loading in front of the CoP wouldn’t happen in normal flight.

This means the right wing is not being tested representatively (it is being over tested). As the root spar of the left wing is smaller, which is the critical wing for testing; so if the left wing is good and the identical right wing with a bigger interface will also be good.

As the right wing is carrying this forward CoP twist it was necessary to put some patches on to stop the flexing of the skin inside and stiffen the assembly, hopefully preventing the unusual sounds, data and make the test run smoother.

The fatigue testing continued on Friday and Saturday morning and on Monday we felt confident enough to let the testing run through the night.

We set the testing cycle going at 4.00 pm and as all good parents do – kept a keen eye on its progress via a webcam – we do like to know what our children are up to! Just after 10pm the shutdown lights came on as the rig was no longer running. A brief investigation on Tuesday morning found the reason for this was a fatigue failure of a rig part.

The part was the thread of an adaptor where the actuator is joined to the load cell; this had fatigued and broken so the actuator could no longer put the loads onto the rig.

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The MOOG controller had then automatically shut down safely. As the actuator became detached it fell onto the engine fairing attachment beam below the representative engine mount causing some damage DOH! This is the worst nightmare of the test engineer! Fatigue testing really does discover every little issue with the entire system.

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The damage has not caused any structural problem to the aircraft and the customer was more pleased that we had tried to run through the night to get the test completed more quickly. Repairs were made by the customer on the same day.

We are now modifying the back end of the load cell to change the broken part to a larger diameter, this is so it will connect directly onto the actuator, hopefully minimising the risk of this failure reoccurring.

The larger diameter part is currently being machined by our AMRC apprentices based onsite at the Knowledge Transfer Centre workshop. A great advantage of being so close to our other centres here at the AMRC is the ability to collaborate closely with our colleagues and our customers, allowing us the flexibility to modify and repair parts at short notice. The apprentices are machining the modified part which should be back with us by the end of Tuesday, allowing us to start testing again on Wednesday if possible.

We are now just under 30 per cent of the way through the testing cycle, so once the modified part is fitted and we are running the fatigue testing cycles day and night, we should run through them fairly quickly!

 

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