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NLF Starboard Leading Edge & Top cover design & manufacturing Trials


The Natural Laminar Flow (NLF) aerofoil is a potential key technology for the next generation of aircraft, improving the performance by reducing drag, and hence reducing emissions.

The requirements of a NLF wing differ significantly from a conventional turbulent wing, requiring changes to both the wing architecture, aerofoil definition and the detailed design and manufacturing concepts. The performance of a NLF wing requires very tight surface roughness and waviness tolerances and contamination free surfaces in the areas where laminar flow is to be maintained. NLF wings also require alternative Leading Edge (LE) moveable concepts, novel LE/Wing-box joints, and slender LE sections.

This proposal is for the design of the starboard LE and Upper cover for a NLF Wing flight demonstrator. The current baseline solution is a metallic LE and composite Top Cover. The LE and Top cover will be joined to a wing-box (outside of scope) and attached to the flight test demonstrator which will be an A340, with the outer third of a starboard wing (from Rib 28 to wingtip) replaced.

The demonstrator aims to validate that a jointed wing concept (LE + Top cover) can be manufactured in realistic high rate and repeatable conditions appropriate to a civil short range aircraft to the required level of aerodynamic surface quality to achieve laminar flow.

From experience on existing Clean Sky Smart Fixed Wing Aircraft (SFWA) calls, current LE and Top Cover design and manufacture capability, and thorough investigation into the Call, GKN recognise the very demanding tolerance and hence manufacturing requirements to achieve a successful demonstrator outcome.

It is understood that any proposed solutions, for LE or Top Cover design, must be developed and proved to such a level that the components can obtain flight clearance for test. GKN believe that ‘traditional’ wing manufacture and assembly techniques will be unable to achieve the required tolerances at an acceptable cost, and therefore novel techniques and concepts will need to be investigated.

Call for proposal

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2Nd Floor, One Central Boulevard, Blythe Valley Park
B90 8BG Solihull
United Kingdom
Activity type
Private for-profit entities (excluding Higher or Secondary Education Establishments)
EU contribution
€ 1 850 000
Administrative Contact
Adrian Bates (Mr.)