ANSI - American National Standards Institute
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Plastic Planes? Structural Testing of Boeing’s Next Generation Aircrafts Set to Begin


New York, Jul 18, 2006

Boeing, a member of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), announced yesterday that it will begin structural testing of the new 787 Dreamliner aircraft next month. Shedding the traditional aluminum body in favor of a stronger, yet lighter frame, the 787 will become the first aircraft to be constructed largely from non-metal carbon composite material, which will account for as much as fifty percent of the aircraft.

Because the composite material is significantly lighter than aluminum, its use greatly reduces the plane’s total weight, leading to superior fuel efficiency and environmental performance. The 787, Boeing says, will use twenty percent less fuel than any other airplane of its size.

As part of its validation and certification process for the new jetliner, Boeing will conduct performance tests on a composite wing box built specifically for evaluating its structural integrity. Tests will also be performed to validate proper repair methods for the aircraft’s construction materials.

“Because the design is all-new, we feel it is important to get early test results,” said Mike Bair, vice president and general manager of the 787 program. “This test article will help us to refine our final designs and ensure we minimize the chance for surprises during the full-scale testing.”

The tests are designed to determine how well the structure will hold up through multiple lifetimes of normal operational loads. Boeing has also equipped the wing with engine nacelle fittings and main landing gears to validate the strength of these critical joints.

“We analyze the wing for how much load the structure can bear and when and where it will break,” said Bair. “The failure loads are equivalent to more than 150 percent of the maximum load we ever expect these wings to see in service, even in the event of an emergency.”

Performance tests will also soon begin on two full-scale 787 airframes.

Boeing has received more than 360 firm orders for the 787 Dreamliner, with the first models expected to be delivered to customers in 2008.

The use of composite materials in aircraft manufacturing is expected to become more prevalent as the technology continues to emerge. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) charged the National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) with developing national standards for aviation composite materials. In turn, NIAR established the National Centre for Advanced Materials Performance (NCAMP) to perform composite materials research and testing and to assist in creating relevant policy and guidance materials. NCAMP maintains a centralized material qualification database shared by industry, NASA, and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

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