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Gulfstream tests composite structural wing assembly

Gulfstream Aerospace, a wholly owned subsidiary of General Dynamics (NYSE:GD), recently completed testing on its first all-composite structural wing assembly.  The testing took place in the structural test hangar at Gulfstream headquarters in Savannah.

The structural wing assembly, also known as a wing box, includes the wing's spars, ribs, stiffeners and skins.  The all-composite device was manufactured at the new Gulfstream Research and Development Center (RDC) II Laboratory Building by the company's Advanced Composites group.  It was used to develop both design and analysis systems and to calibrate these systems once testing was completed.  The RDC II Laboratory Building was officially opened on Aug. 22, 2008.

Gulfstream engineers and technicians were involved in the design, development, manufacturing and testing of the wing assembly. The 18-foot structural wing assembly, which weighs 465 pounds, is similar in size and shape to the outboard section of the Gulfstream G650 aircraft with a 35 percent weight reduction. It is the biggest section of a wing that could fit in the RDC II Laboratory's autoclave, a high-pressurized oven used to cure composites.

The Advanced Composites team performed a number of tests, including one to design ultimate loading with the wing in good condition and again after the wing had been damaged intentionally.  The test program confirmed that the team was able to accurately predict non-linear behavior and eventual structural failure by analysis.

"The successful completion of this test is a major step forward for Gulfstream research and development," said Pres Henne, senior vice president, Programs, Engineering and Test, Gulfstream.  "Full-scale assembly and testing of wing and fuselage sections will allow us to determine if it makes sense to use large-scale composite primary structures in Gulfstream aircraft." Using composite materials instead of metal reduces an aircraft's weight and cost, the fuel it burns and the carbon dioxide it emits. Composites also improve the aircraft's efficiency, durability and skin appearance.  In new aircraft designs, weight reduction influences the size and thrust of the engines, which further adds to the reductions in fuel burned and carbon dioxide emitted.

Gulfstream has incorporated modest levels of composites in its planes for more than 20 years.  They are used in floor panels, furnishings, fairings, cover pieces and the aft pressure bulkhead section of the fuselage.

Press release issued by Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation on May 11, 2009


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