Today was a great day! Last Friday, after all the ups and downs, we finished all the fatigue testing after we reached 71 633 cycles.
With this complete it was time for us to move onto the ultimate load test, performed once before, where the aircraft gets boxed in insulation and heated up to a toasty 72 degrees Celsius. This definitely helps take the edge of the February chills we have here in South Yorkshire.
So with the airframe all boxed up as you can see in the picture, we were all ready for the residual strength test to 64.85 kN which the airframe had no trouble getting through.
When this first pre-load test was complete, we moved onto the static ultimate load test which took the Game Bird 1 up to 82.65 kN. This is the highest loading that the airframe has seen to date, so it was a tense time for all involved. The Game Composites team were on site during the testing today, so we were all feeling the pressure!
Fortunately relief spread across us all when the airframe passed with flying colours. There was the odd creak which was expected, although this didn’t help with the tension levels when we were all watching!
It has certainly been a very exciting week for us here at the AMRC and guided by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), it is now time for us and the team from Game Composites to decide what’s next when it comes to further testing for the Game Bird 1 aerobatic aircraft!
We can now announce the creators behind the aerobatic aircraft we have been testing here at the Advanced Structural Testing Centre (ASTC)!
For the first time in 30 years we can say that full airworthiness certification of a aircraft is taking place in the UK thanks to a pioneering partnership involving a championship-winning aerobatics pilot, an aircraft builder and ourselves.
Former German National Freestyle Aerobatic Champion and aircraft designer Philipp Steinbach is the brains behind the Game Bird 1 (GB1), which is being built by Lincolnshire-based Game Composites and is intended to be the world’s most fun to fly two-seater aircraft.
The GB1 has been designed and built in the UK, but Philipp and Game Composites’ co-founder Stuart Walton, faced the expense of shipping the aircraft to the Czech Republic for full airworthiness certification, until Game Composites’ met our head of the ASTC (and project Show Boss) Phil Spiers at a Royal Aeronautical Society meeting.
Phil was determined that the production process should be kept within Britain, and although it would be the first time a plane has been designed, built and tested in the UK for 30 years; Phil was sure we had the skills and experience to make it happen.
The bespoke Whiffletree test rig was designed and built from scratch right here at the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) with the help of welding specialists from the Nuclear AMRC and the AMRC’s own apprentices.
Phil and the team believe that the successful completion of airworthiness tests will open the way for the testing of light aircraft to return to the UK.
You can see the aircraft’s amazing capability, designed to help it carry our impressive aerobatic feats in the video’s below.
ASTC’s fact of the week
Concorde’s first flight was 40 years ago today in January 1976!
Its maiden voyage flew passengers from London to Bahrain in complete luxury, serving champagne, lobster, caviar and fillet steak during the journey.
Concorde flew passengers at supersonic speed during its lifetime, meaning a trip from London to New York was reduced from approximately seven hours to only two hours and fifty-two minutes!
ASTC interesting fact of the week…
Today is the 150th anniversary of the Royal Aeronautical Society, the oldest society relating to aeronautics and astronautics in the world.
Formed by the Duke of Argyll in 1866 to explore the science of heavier than air flight, some 37 years before the Wright brothers would take to the sky at Kill Devil Hills in North Carolina.
It is not just today that we have innovative thinkers and pioneers, The Duke was very much the Steve Jobs or Elon Musk of the 19th Century.
On 9 December 1972, the Apollo 17 mission was on its way to the last manned-mission to the moon. 42 years ago today the mission crew were halfway through a rest period, or having a snooze, during their lunar-coast on their way to land on the moon. They were so relaxed that they overslept by 70 minutes and mission control were unable to wake them as their earplugs had fallen out!
This was just over 52 hours into their mission after leaving earth, at this point the crew were 70,200 nautical miles from the moon.
Sadly the Apollo 17 mission wasn’t only the last time humans walked on the moon, it was also the last time humans have left low-earth orbit in the exploration of our universe!
The Apollo 17 mission broke many records, such as breaking the record for the longest total lunar surface extravehicular activities, the largest lunar sample return and the longest time in lunar orbit. Perhaps most interesting, is the fact that the mission was the first and only time a professional scientist has visited the moon, or flown beyond low earth orbit. Harrison Schmitt, a professional geologist, was assigned as the Lunar Module Pilot, rather than NASA training a pilot as a geologist.
The whole Apollo 17 mission is available to view in real-time, with over 200 hours of viewing at http://apollo17.org/
This week the team have completed the ultimate load test on our aerobatic aircraft under heated conditions. The test involved applying 82 Kilo newton’s (kN) of force through the load mounting bracket that acts through the main wing attachment points. The load is spread through the airframe and reacted down through the Whiffletree all under heated conditions of 72 degrees Celsius!
The ultimate load test involved loading the airplane up to replicate positive and negative g forces of 15 g. This load was applied just once in each direction and is the biggest load test the plane will complete.
It is a pivotal point in the testing programme, and takes the airframe to 150 per cent of maximum operating load so it was ‘squeaky bum’ time for the aircraft designers and a real relief that the test was passed successfully.
So we now have a green light to go ahead and start full fatigue testing as soon as we have made some modifications to the Whiffletree requested by the customer. We’ve installed some steel metal reinforcements to the engine mount block to ensure that the load is spread evenly through the engine mounting interface on the aircraft.
The reinforcements were laser cut by our friends at the AMRC Design Prototyping & Testing Centre and welded by our Nuclear AMRC colleagues. So we’re in good shape to start the fatigue testing cycles in earnest, getting as many cycles as possible completed before site shut down for two weeks over the Christmas break.
The full fatigue testing programme is made up of 71,633 ten second cycles of +/-10 g. This will take five weeks if we run the programme eight hours a day. These testing cycles have to be constantly monitored to ensure we are hitting the loads, that the data being received from the strain gauges is correct and to visually inspect the aircraft as testing progresses to make sure no cracks appear in the structure.
Luckily the team will be sustained by a multitude of festive snacks that have been appearing in the office this week, including mince pies and Quality Street chocolates. Although half a tub of Quality Street chocolates disappeared this morning and the finger of suspicion has been pointed at the mission’s best boy, Ed. Whether the accusations are true or not will require more verification, stay tuned.