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Design and development of a composite ventral fin for a light aircraft
Pieterse, Justin Lee
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The AHRLAC aircraft is a high performance light aircraft that is developed and manufactured in South Africa by Aerosud ITC in partnership with Paramount. This aircraft is the first of its kind to originate from South Africa. The aircraft has a twin boom, tandem pilot seating configuration, with a Pratt and Whitney turbine-propeller engine in a pusher configuration. The main structure of the aircraft is a conventional metallic structure, while the fairings and some secondary structures are composite. This study will focus on the design and development of the composite ventral fin of the first prototype aircraft, the experimental demonstrator model (XDM). It is crucial to ensure that the ventral fin can function safely within the design requirements of the aircraft under the loads which the fin is likely to encounter. Preceding the design process, a critical overview of composite materials used in aircraft applications is provided. This will include the materials, manufacturing methods, analysis and similar work done in this field of study. The literature will be used in the study for decision-making and validation of proven concepts and methodologies. The first part of this study entailed choosing a suitable composite material and manufacturing method for this specific application. The manufacturing method and materials used had to suit the aircraft prototype application. The limitations of using composite materials were researched as to recognize bad practice and limit design flaws on the ventral fin. Once the material and manufacturing methods were chosen, ventral fin concepts were evaluated using computer aided finite element analysis (FEA) with mass, stiffness and strength being the main parameters of concern. The load cases used in this evaluation were given by the lead structural engineer and aerodynamicist. The calculations of these loads are not covered in detail in this study. The FEA input material properties used, were determined by material testing by the relevant test methods. The ventral fin concept started as the minimal design with the lowest mass. The deflections, composite failure and fastener failure were then evaluated against the required values. The concept was modified by adding stiffening elements, such as ribs and spars, until satisfactory results were obtained. In this way a minimal mass component is designed and verified that it can adequately perform its designed tasks under the expected load conditions. Each part used in the ventral fin assembly was not individually optimized for mass, but rather the assembly as a whole. The final concept was modelled using the computer aided design software, CATIA. This model used in combination with a ply book made it possible to manufacture the ventral fin in a repeatable manner. A test ventral fin was manufactured using the selected materials and manufacturing methods to validate the design methodology. In the next step the selected load cases were used in static testing to validate the FEM through comparison. The result of the study is a composite ventral fin of which the mass, stiffness and strength are suitable to perform its function safely on the first prototype AHRLAC aircraft. The study concludes on the process followed from material selection to FEA and detail design, in order for this same method to be used on other AHRLAC XDM composite parts.
- Engineering