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Supporting new C-5 inlet

New composite inlet for C-5 supported by UDRI 'family'

A recent research program to develop and demonstrate a new aircraft part demonstrated something else as well—the diversity of research talent, labs and equipment that makes UDRI a one-stop shop for customers.

During the last week in May, the Air Force began a six-month flight demonstration of a new, lightweight composite RAM air system for the C-5M Super Galaxy Transport aircraft. The new inlets, designed to replace legacy aluminum honeycomb air inlets on the Galaxy, weigh less, cost less to manufacture and have greater corrosion resistance than traditional inlet systems, increasing part life and aircraft availability while significantly reducing maintenance costs over the life of the aircraft.

Because no design data existed for the original inlets because of the age of the Galaxy, a legacy part had to be reverse engineered–and that’s where UDRI came in. In fact, UDRI’s support for the project was significant and widely varied, spanning much of the organization.

Led by principal investigator and group leader Dan Bowman in UDRI's Aerospace Mechanics division, the System & Sustainment Engineering group performed the reverse engineering along with the Structures group, also in Aerospace Mechanics, and Applied Composites Engineering (Indianapolis).

But that was just the start. Researchers in the Structures group also performed structural analysis and inlet design; the Composites Manufacturing and Testing group in Multi-Scale Composites & Polymers performed composite material property validation testing; the Coatings, Corrosion & Erosion group in Nonstructural Materials performed rain and dust erosion testing; the Corrosion Science Engineering group, also NSM, performed corrosion testing; the Integrated Methods & Materials Characterization group in Structural Integrity performed nondestructive inspection of the composite inlet; and hail-impact and falling-weight testing were performed by Impact Physics​ in Aerospace Mechanics.

In all seven groups across four divisions worked together to redesign, manufacture, validate, verify and document the data needed to provide the Air Force with a flight-ready part.

“This is a perfect example that not only illustrates the diversity of talent we have within UDRI, but the way in which we excel at pooling our resources to provide our customers with all the services they need in one place.”

Researchers will evaluate the performance of the inlet during the six-month flight test, and will also evaluate other opportunities to leverage this technology to support the sustainment of legacy aircraft across the Air Force enterprise, Bowman added.

Once flight testing is complete, the composite inlet will be analyzed for performance, and the Air Force will determine whether to commission further work or approve the new inlet for installation on the entire fleet.

June 15, 2017


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