Aviation Week’s Rupa Haria took the below video of a wing-morphing “flexfoil” demonstrator that winglet specialist Aviation Partners Inc. (Seattle, Wash.) and joint-venture partner FlexSys (Ann Arbor, Mich.) displayed at the 2016 National Business Aviation Association show (Nov. 1-2, Orlando). The demo illustrates how the airfoil shape could change in flight to boost performance over a wide range of angles of attack, indicated airspeeds and Mach levels. The joint-venture partners are working with an undisclosed customer to retrofit an aircraft with the first commercial morphing wing, an aerodynamic innovation that has wide-ranging implications for performance-boosting retrofits of existing business jets or clean-sheet designs.
Haria reports that this new approach to variable-camber wings builds on compliant composite structure, developed by FlexSys, that eliminates the mechanical complexity of previous shape-adaptive surfaces. It also replaces the heavy and cumbersome mechanisms of conventional wing assemblies. The FlexFoil technology incorporates a one-piece, jointless and seamless mechanism that is strong and flexible. It performs the large controlled deformations (from -9° to + 40°) needed for landing and takeoff without separating from the rest of the wing. See our previous coverage of this technology here: www.compositesworld.com/blog/post/video-morphing-wing-technology-update.
Developed with funding from the U.S. Air Force, FlexFoil composites structures have demonstrated in testing by NASA to be capable of withstanding high dynamic pressures and aerodynamic loads up to 11,500 lb. per flap segment at high deflection angles. This testing also confirmed FlexSys projections for drag savings ranging from 2% for flap retrofits to 12% for all-new control surface designs.
Aviation Week reports API Chief Operating Officer Hank Thompson as stating that the first application is a retrofit and pretty close to preliminary design review. This morphing trailing edge will reportedly provide multiple capabilities including active load alleviation, roll control and aileron droop for an improved mission-adaptive profile.
API founder and CEO Joe Clark stated the company is looking for potential partners to license the technology, then certify and commercialize it. Thompson added, “We are actively soliciting this technology with all the world’s original equipment manufacturers, and they are very interested.” He noted API’s first meeting during NBAA was with French business and military jet OEM Dassault.
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The project’s goal is to reduce product development and certification timelines by 30 percent for composite aircraft.