As part of Element’s involvement in the EU-funded collaborative R&D program Cost-Effective Small Aircraft (CESAR), and more specifically its aim to develop composite lightweight primary structures to support the European general aviation industry, the forward wing structure of the Piaggio Aero P180 Avanti was selected as a demonstrator for its testing processes.

The design of the wing box included three C-shaped spars, lower and upper skins and five ribs, with the upper skin CFRP laminate adhesively bonded and riveted to the C-spars and ribs and predominantly loaded in compression. The damage tolerance of the skin laminate would be critical to the final design process, with threats including blunt metal tip low-velocity impact and hail ice.

Element assessed the damage tolerance of the wing box against both low-velocity impact (LVI) and compression after impact (CAI), with testing being performed on the actual wing box laminate, with specimens of 150 x 100mm. LVI tests took place in both dry and hot-wet (90 degrees C distilled water) environments. This way, the suitability of in-situ phased array ultrasonic inspection and damage identification could be assessed as a viable means of detecting Barely Visible Impact Damage (BVID) at regular maintenance intervals.

To test LVI, a 12.5mm diameter hemispherical steel impactor tip was used at variable height (to test at energy levels between 3J and 16J), with a portable rolling ultrasonic phased array system used to inspect the impacted specimens.

CAI testing, following ASTM D7136, involved a Zwick 1484 with four strain gauges to measure in-plane strains and to verify alignment and LVDT to measure out-of-plane deflection at the centre of the specimen.

The testing showed no discernible difference in impact response and resistance between specimens conditioned in a dry environment and those tested in hot-wet conditions. Inspection from the impact side of the specimens revealed that damage increased linearly with impact energy, but was unaffected by long-term exposure to a hot-wet environment. CAI tests, meanwhile, showed that the skin laminate buckled locally under in-plane compressive loading.

The results of the testing were fed directly into the design of the composite wing box.

About Element 

Element is a company with a global presence; its laboratories are staffed by experts specializing in materials testing, product qualification testing and failure analysis for the Aerospace & Defense, Oil & Gas, Power Generation, and Transportation sectors. Element’s team of 1,400 scientists, engineers and technicians work in 40 laboratories located throughout the U.S. and Europe.For complete Accreditations & Approvals and more information, please

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