Monthly Archives: March 2016

Gearing up for a big day…

As Mission Controller Shane was away last week and the AMRC was very busy with the exciting budget day reporting hosted by Sky News here at the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, the team decided to spend last week re-boxing up the aircraft with insulation and heaters ready for a set of ultimate load testing this week.

The second life fatigue testing was completed successfully the week before and now that the Mission Controller Shane is back, he is currently validating the testing programmes for this week’s testing.

This week’s ultimate load tests will consist of a residual strength test where the Game Bird 1 is pushed up and pulled down on the Whiffletree rig to 72 degrees, applied by a load of 64.5 kilo newtons; the same forces applied throughout the fatigue testing.

Once complete a heated static ultimate load test will pulling down the plane on the rig first with a force of 82.65 kilo newtons, then the aircraft is pushed up on the rig plus 15 per cent of that force.

As we are still experiencing some play in one of the wing pins, Game Composites are currently assessing whether they want to complete some repairs to the damaged bushes this has caused before we go ahead with the testing tomorrow, so Game could well be back on-site with us this afternoon.

As well as Game, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) will also be present on-site to witness the tests and we will update as soon as possible, hopefully with some video of the nerve-wracking testing, so you can experience what the team go through when putting the Game Bird 1 through its paces!

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The Game Bird 1 boxed up and ready to go!

 

Plane sailing

The fatigue testing has been running really well, practice makes perfect as they say! We’ve been busy changing all the joints of the Whiffletree and replacing the engine mount bolts. This is done at approximately 60,000 cycles. We learnt some lessons during the first period when we had rig failures and bits breaking, but this means the second time round, we can monitor things better and avoid this from happening again. In addition, we made a plan with Game Composites to change certain rig components as a matter of course.

We’re currently at 61,500 cycles and we have to get to 71,663. When we run a 24-hour period it gives us 8,640 cycles, so in running another 24-hour period we will be left with only 900 cycles remaining before we reach the finish line and the golden number of 71,633.

Once we’ve reached the 71,633 cycles, this will also us to begin boxing up the airframe in insulation and the week commencing the 21st we will be doing another ultimate load test at 72 degrees Celsius and then a further ultimate load test at a 15% higher load. It will be getting hot in Catcliffe! So keep checking back for exciting news!

Stanley knives and Saturday Morning Kitchen

We starting running the second life of the fatigue testing cycles on Friday and to our delight it ran beautifully well, so ran through Friday night as well. Set designer Steve gave up time on his Saturday morning off to come and shut down the rig safely for the rest of the weekend. Always absolute dedication from us here in ASTC could cause us to miss Saturday Kitchen Live.

We came back in on Monday and started our usual rounds of inspection to find that the engine attachment bracket (the bracket that takes the main load up into the wing spars) was starting to show signs of cracking.

The solution was to take it off, do some hasty cutting up of bits of box section we had and got the whole thing welded up much stronger with the help of our friends at Nuclear AMRC. This time we’ve really gone to town and beefed the bracket it up to help ensure it won’t happen again.

It was ready to reinstall this morning and we are ready to continue with the fatigue testing again today. We have already clocked up about 20,000 fatigue testing cycles out of the 71,633 required for the entirety of the second life testing, so we are getting through it quite quickly now.

Luckily for ourselves and Game Composites, nothing untoward has happened so far during testing with the extra damage we have caused the airframe. Game Composites came in late last week and did some repairs to the rear stabiliser of the aerobatic aircraft because we had noticed a little crease was developing.

It’s quite remarkable the aircraft can be repaired. A Stanley knife is used to cut out the damaged patch of composite material on the fuselage to reveal the foam layer in the middle. The foam is removed and smeared with glue, but not just any old glue is used; the glue has what only can be described as lots of hollow tiny glass balls in it, making it lightweight yet very strong. This replaces the foam and a patch is stuck over the top with resin which we leave to cure overnight.

As the aircraft being hand laid-up (or built by hand), it’s relatively easy and cheap to repair, as any repairs can also be done by manually without having to send it back to a manufacturer. As it would at the hanger or in the field.

With the repairs to the engine bracket made, we will be back up and running with testing today and we will hopefully conclude the second life fatigue testing next week so we can get ready for further testing. Exciting things to come for us!

Exciting visit from British Aerobatic champion Lauren Richardson

At the end of the last week the ASTC had an exciting visit from British Aerobatic Champion Lauren, Richardson.

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Photo credit: lauren-richardson.com

 

28 year old Lauren has completed five seasons of flying aerobatics and three as a certified display pilot in air shows around the UK, completing 33 performances over the space of just four months during the 2015 flying season.

Whilst in Sheffield to present a lecture for the Sheffield branch of the Royal Aeronautical Society on ‘The art of the unusual attitude’, Lauren was invited to the ASTC to see the work we were doing helping to fully-certify the Game Bird 1 aerobatic aircraft. Lauren said she hopes our work will be of great interest to competitive aerobatic pilots across the UK and is watching our project very closely!

You can read all about Lauren’s work and see stunning video of her in action in her specially modified Pitts Special G-G-BKDR biplane at: http://lauren-richardson.com/