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GKN GBSSD — Result In Brief

Project ID: 255731
Funded under: FP7-JTI

Next-generation wing demonstrators

Reducing drag over wing surfaces could significantly reduce fuel consumption and climate impact. EU-funded scientists investigated and proposed design concepts for further development of next-generation wings.
Next-generation wing demonstrators
Minimising turbulence is a key focus of the aeronautics industry in order to increase passenger comfort and safety while reducing fuel consumption and associated emissions. Natural laminar flow (NLF) is a drag reduction technology focusing on the boundary layer of airflow close to the surface of the wing. This technology could be key to producing next-generation aircrafts and is a focus of the Clean Sky programme, the most ambitious aeronautical research programme ever initiated in Europe.

EU funding of the project 'Ground based structural/systems demonstrators' (GKN GBSSD) supported the development of NLF wing concepts. Scientists manufactured, assembled and evaluated several promising small-scale demonstrator components. The most promising ones were selected to develop the final integrated ground-based demonstrator of the leading edge (LE) of an NLF wing. They investigated line-of-flight (LOF) and across-LOF joint concepts for LE panels as well as wing ice protection systems (WIPSs) for metal and carbon fibre-reinforced plastic LE components.

All aerodynamic surface tolerance requirements, including surface roughness and waviness, were set for an Airbus A340 flying test bed. Demonstrator components were evaluated against these criteria. Scientists determined a suitable joint configuration for a top cover attachment. Both a metallic and a composite LE were investigated.

Researchers demonstrated good machining control with the aluminium LE thickness meeting NLF tolerance requirements, paving the way for phase 2 of the project. In addition, two composite concepts eliminated tolerance issues and fastener head disruption, and are also suitable for phase 2 development. Four different electrothermal heater integration options were investigated for WIPSs, two for metallic LE and two for composites, with appropriate recommendations made for phase 2 development.

GKN GBSSD has successfully laid the groundwork for phase 2 and phase 3 validation of design and manufacturing concepts leading to a European NLF wing concept. Its contribution to cleaner and greener aircraft should have major impact on aerospace competitiveness while reducing the contribution of air transport to climate change.

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