Leading Edges

The application of Glare as fuselage skin material for the A380 is widely known. In 2003 a major break-through was achieved with the application of Glare in the Leading Edge of the vertical and horizontal tail plane of the Airbus A380. With this new application a first structural application of Glare outside aircraft fuselages was found.

The Leading Edge of a wing or tail plane mainly has two functions. The first is to maintain the right aerodynamic shape of the wing as a whole and secondly it has to protect the wing from any in-flight impact damages.

During take off and landing, debris like small stones can be moved and impact the wing or empennage. Further, in flight one of the major threats for the wing leading edges is impact by birds. A bird impact will cause severe damage to the wing with a possible loss of control for the aircraft in case of damage of the major structure of the wing. Bird impact is therefore one of the main design drivers for a leading edge.

It is known that Glare has good impact properties, which are governed by the so-called strain-rate behaviour of the glass fibres in the laminate. This phenomenon results in a higher strength of the fibres at higher loading rates. One can image that a bird impact during flight is the source for very high strain rates. On request of Airbus, application of Glare in a leading edge was therefore investigated from the year 2001.

Verification tests using qualified test set-ups and facilities have shown that Glare indeed shows very good bird impact behaviour. In comparison to aluminium this results either in a better protection of the structure (less damage) or in a lighter design.

The size of the Airbus A380 is enormous. The vertical tail plane has a length of about 16 metres. These dimensions result in a second challenge namely: the production of Glare Leading Edges. FMLC developed a production method to manufacture the Leading Edges in a simple manner including a dedicated quality assurance system.