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High Energy Wide Area Blunt Impact of Composite Aircraft Structures Part B: Testing and Internal Damage Modes



Modern aircraft structures constructed from high strength laminated composite materials present a challenge in the detection of damage resulting from impact events. Broad-area contact from large sized or blunt radius objects furthermore create conditions in which significant internal damage can result, while leaving low (or even no) externally visible indications of damage being present. Composite fuselage structures subjected to high energy wide area blunt impact (HEWABI) sources have been studied. These impact sources act over a wide area and can possibly damage multiple internal structural elements. HEWABI sources of concern are generally heavy ground service equipment (GSE) such as belt loaders, cargo loaders, catering trucks, etc., which have soft rubber/elastomeric bumper-type pads mounted at locations where the GSE could contact the aircraft. Of particular interest in this study is the formation of damage in composite frame and shear tie components during HEWABI events occurring near the passenger floor joint. Carbon/epoxy composite test specimens reflecting modern composite fuselage features were designed and fabricated having continuous shear ties and representative stiffness interaction between the floor beam and circumferential frame members. Quasi-static and slow speed tests (representing impact) conducted using rubber bumper faced indentors developed significant internal damage to internal components. Specifically, fiber failures and large-size crack formation in shear ties, frames, and stringers occurred with low/no external observability in the external skin. A clear quantitative understanding of damage modes and damage location that could result from HEWABI events is important for establishing damage size criteria in the evaluation of a structure’s residual strength and damage tolerance capability.


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