Airbus project to improve composite wings

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Engineers at the UK-based National Composites Centre (NCC) are working with Airbus to improve wing aerodynamics.

Plans are for the company’s ‘eXtra Performance Wing’ program to develop active control technologies that can adapt the wing shape and area to the particular weight, speed and altitude of the aircraft to suit fight conditions. These include pop-up spoilers, multifunctional trailing edges on flaps that can dynamically change the surface of the wing in flight, and a semi-aeroelastic hinge that controls a moving folding tip.

According to Airbus, these technologies could help improve performance and reduce emissions.

The NCC and Airbus are currently designing a demonstrator wing which, being longer than standard, is more flexible, and therefore more susceptible to turbulence. The NCC says that it is making the primary components of the wing box structure to host the new active control technologies, comprising the upper and lower skin cover, and the leading edge and trailing edge spars.

The design phase is expected to be completed this summer, followed by a full-scale demonstrator wing manufacturing stage, with the first flight of the demonstrator aircraft following modification of the aircraft with the new wings. The project team is adapting a Cessna Citation VII aircraft for flight tests.

"Composites deliver the strength and flexibility of design that the eXtra Performance Wing demands,” said Paul Clarke, head of aerospace at the NCC.