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New Aging Aircraft Center

UDRI Joins Texas A&M, Georgia Tech to Create New Department-of-Defense Sponsored Aging Aircraft Center

The University of Dayton Research Institute has teamed with the Texas Engineering Experiment Station and Georgia Tech Research Institute to establish an Academic Center for Aging Aircraft with $4.2 million funding from the Department of Defense.

The ACAA will help the Department of Defense develop, test and implement new technologies for the maintenance and repair of aging aircraft, which have become an ever-growing financial burden on the DOD budget. While research will be simultaneously conducted at all three partner institutions, management of the center will change hands every two years. TEES, a member of the Texas A&M University System, will take the management lead for the first two years, then turn the center's administration over to Georgia Tech for the next two years. UDRI will manage the center in years five and six before turning the reins again to TEES as the rotation cycle continues.

Michael V. (Mickey) McCabe, associate vice president for research at the University of Dayton and director of the University of Dayton Research Institute, said the problem of aging aircraft is one of the biggest facing the U.S. Department of Defense and is a growing problem for the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Coast Guard.

"For the first time in the history of the Air Force, pilots are younger than the planes they are flying," McCabe said. "It has become a priority in the industry to find ways to keep these aircraft safely flying. And while the University of Dayton Research Institute and our peer institutions have implemented a number of programs to address the problems of aging aircraft, we feel this concerted effort will more fully and successfully address these problems."

McCabe also said repair and maintenance of aging aircraft has grown to an annual $13 billion burden on the Department of Defense and continues to escalate at a rate of 7 to 12 percent per year.

The ACAA will significantly reduce that burden by testing, evaluating and implementing new, cost-effective technologies in controlling and preventing corrosion, McCabe added. The center will also develop new tools to diagnose aircraft problems; improve reliability, integrity and repair of aging aircraft; and develop new technologies for structural and mechanical systems, wiring and avionics.

Robert Andrews, head of the structural integrity division at UDRI, will serve as the research institute's agent for ACAA. John Ayala, manager of TEES' Aircraft Sustainability Laboratory and the station's agent for ACAA, said researchers hope to eventually expand the center's focus to include commercial aircraft.

U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, and Reps. Henry Bonilla, R-San Antonio, and Ciro Rodriguez, D-San Antonio, along with the support of U.S. Rep. David Hobson, R-Springfield, were instrumental in securing funding for the center, McCabe said.

The University of Dayton Research Institute currently performs more than $50 million in sponsored research, much of it focused on aircraft safety. Current and recent projects specific to aging aircraft include:

  • ultrasonic inspection to detect defects in turbine engine disks
  • automated detection of hidden corrosion in KC-135 lap splices
  • characterization of cracking damage in F-16 wing attach fittings
  • contributions to the Air Force Engine Rotor Life Extension Program
  • developing tools to predict corrosion in high strength steels used by the Navy
  • risk analysis for the A-10 aircraft

For media interviews, contact Mickey McCabe at 937-229-2113, and Robert Andrews at 937-229-4483.

November 6, 2003


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