Chomarat introduces first C-Ply aircraft

France-based Chomarat, working with U.S.-based VX Aerospace, has developed the VX-1 KittyHawk, a 1:4 scale blended wing aircraft fabricated with Chomarat's C-Ply thin-ply, low-angle advanced composite reinforcement.

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Chomarat (Le Cheylard, France; Anderson, S.C., USA) reported on Feb. 17 that it has developed a 1:4 scale version of the VX-1 KittyHawk aircraft, an aircraft designed by VX Aerospace (Morganton, N.C., USA) and fabricated with C-Ply, Chomarat’s thin-ply, low-angle advanced composite reinforcement material.

The KittyHawk features a blended wing design, which offers greater usable internal volume, greater payload capability, better structural efficiency, better durability and better manufacturability. The construction is thus facilitated as this design will have fewer parts and will therefore be easier to assemble, Chomarat says.

“The volume will also allow KittyHawk to lead the way in adopting CNG (compressed natural gas) as an aviation fuel. Existing technology CNG tanks fit inside the aircraft with no aerodynamic compromise. At less than one-third the cost of avgas, the KittyHawk will have unparalleled operational economy with emissions that are 40 percent cleaner,” says Bob Skillen, VX Aerospace CEO.

C-Ply (prepregged with Cytec Industries’ resin system MTM 45-1 to create a low-density, damage tolerant material) is the enabling material for VX Aerospace to use their established hand layup and oven curing processes to economically achieve properties similar to autoclave-cured UD (unidirectional) prepreg and automatically placed tape prepreg. Chomarat says the C-Ply material is durable to handle during layup, drapable to accommodate compound curvatures and can be manufactured to fully optimize the design relative to fiber angles and ply weights to yield a low weight, high performance, and low cost final solution.

“C-PlyTM is the first true advance in carbon fabrics in a long time. It is designed to optimize fiber performance. Chomarat capitalized on the low-angle, thin-ply, non-crimp laminate concept developed by Prof. Steve Tsai. The result is a fabric that allows for cost-effective production of open mold parts with the same (or better) performance characteristics of ATP [automated tape placement] parts. This is a game-changer for small business," says Skillen.

Flight testing of the KittyHawk will begin in March. A 1:4 scale version of the KittyHawk will be on display at JEC Europe 2014 in Paris, March 11-13, at Chomarat’s stand: Hall 7.3, Booth M29. 

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