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Making Aviation Safer

UDRI Participates in FAA's Airworthiness Assurance Center of Excellence

During the past few years, UDRI has become more involved in partnerships and consortia with industry and other universities. One of the major national partnerships in which we participate is the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) Airworthiness Assurance Center of Excellence (AACE). The AACE was established in 1997 by the FAA as part of the agency's strategic goal of reducing the fatal aviation accident rate by 80% by the year 2007. This goal was the primary recommendation of the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security in its report to the President.

The AACE was initially established as a consortium comprising nine core members: Iowa State University, The Ohio State University, Arizona State University, Northwestern University, University of Dayton, University of Maryland, University of California at Los Angeles, Wichita State University, and Sandia National Laboratories. Iowa State University serves as the technical manager and provides technical coordination, and The Ohio State University is responsible for business management. Each core member provides a representative to the AACE Board of Directors. Bob Andrews (Division Head, Structural Integrity) serves as the UD representative. In addition to the core team, more than 100 affiliate members, including universities, aviation companies, and government laboratories, assist and support the AACE research efforts.

One of the Center's unique features is its single-source contracting authority, which gives the FAA the flexibility to award up to $100 million in contracts and grants for specific projects. There are cost-sharing requirements for both contracts and grants; this provision encourages teaming with and the commitment of industry partners. As of the end of September 1998, a total of nine grants and 27 contracts are in place for a total FAA commitment of $6 million.

Many of the contracts and grants awarded during the first year of operation continue research efforts that were begun under other FAA programs. Three such programs have been folded into the AACE: the Airworthiness Assurance NDI Validation Center (AANC) at Sandia National Laboratory, the Engine Titanium Consortium (ETC), and the Center for Aviation Safety and Reliability (CASR), the latter two at ISU. New start money has been relatively scarce this year; however, UD was awarded one contract and one grant through the Center and is participating on another contract team.

Dan Tipps (Structural Integrity) is the Principal Investigator on a program to analyze aircraft load data and relate the results to aircraft maintenance requirements. Bob Kauffman (Nonmetallic Materials) is part of a team with Wichita State and SRI investigating copper/sulfur deposits in fuel tanks. UD also has a small grant to support Board of Director activities.

The Center initially had four major areas of concentration: maintenance, inspection and repair, crashworthiness, propulsion and fuel systems safety technologies, and advanced materials. Other areas have been added, including: fire safety, structural integrity and reliability, and technology transfer and utilization. UDRI employees are serving on subcommittees in a number of these areas and assist in planning the Center's future activities. A strategic plan for the Center is being drafted for FAA review and will be presented at the AACE meeting in November. A color brochure describing the AACE and its core members was recently published and distributed.

November 1998
by Bob Andrews, Division Head, Structural Integrity

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