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AE693 Aircraft Structural Integrity

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Prakash Mangalgiri

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Visiting Professor, AE Dept

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Formerly at ADA.

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(Also at GM-R&D, NASA, IISc, TELCO)

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Aircraft Structural Integrity

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Module 1 : Introduction &Motivation

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Module

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Introduction & Motivation
• What is structural integrity?

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• What are the issues? & Concerns?

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– Fatigue - a major concern in metallic structures
– Impact damage - a major concern in Carbon Composites

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– Corrosion – a major concern in ageing aircraft

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• How do we ensure Structural Integrity of Aircraft?

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Challenges, Strategies
– Historical Evolution

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– Strategies as a Designer & as a user

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– Safe-Life, Fail-Safe, Damage Tolerant Design Philosophies

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What is Structural Integrity?

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What is Structural Integrity?

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• Structure remains in-tact (may have local damage, but does
not totally break)
• and fulfils all the functional requirements

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• Does so through entire life time of the aircraft

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• Functional requirements … …
– Carry and sustain loads (STRENGTH)

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Avoid excessive vibrations, deflections or distortions (STIFFNESS)

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– Avoid instabilities (BUCKLING, FLUTTER)

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Provide proper shape (e.g. AEROFOIL)

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Provide proper container shape and volume (e.g. FUEL
STORAGE)
– Others ….

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• Provide Proper RADAR CROSS SECTION (RCS)

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• Multi-functional (SMART) Structures can have other functions as well

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(e.g. Antennae)

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Structural elements

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Structures from Structural elements

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Some Typical Aircraft Structures

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A commercial Transport Aircraft

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https://hendrynoya.wordpress.com/2011/04/17/aircraft-load-part-i/ 9

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Boeing 747 - Classic

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http://www.b747classic.co.uk/gallery

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http://modernairliners.com/airbus-a380/airbus-a380-specs

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LCA - Tejas

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https://forums.bharat-rakshak.com/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=6964&start=3240

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LCA: Tejas

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MULTIROLE

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• Air to Air

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• Air to Ground

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• Air to Sea (naval

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version)

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Facetted structure of F-117 Stealth Fighter

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• Heavy penalties in power requirement

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• High cost of maintenance • Now-a-days, with
the help of

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computer aided

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models and

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calculations, more
streamlined shapes
are possible

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1983 - 2008

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http://defenceforumindia.com/forum/threads/stealth-

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fighters-and-bombers.48973/
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Combat Aircraft : Relative Sizes

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LCA F-16

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F-2A Typhoon F/A-18 F-35

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(Tejas) Rafale F-35A J-10 F-22 E-50

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F-117 ?? J-20 Su-27 SU-47 B-2

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Size
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A-380

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comparison

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LCA

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What can go wrong with

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the structure?

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Why would it fail?

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Why do Structures fail?

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• Several structures have been built… ships, bridges, dams,

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nuclear reactors, rockets, aircraft… etc etc
• On the whole, things work well … but, every now and then….a

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problem shows up leading to structural failure

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• Why do structures fail?
– Negligence : Mistakes or errors in design or fabrication or
operation.. Someone did not follow the set rules.

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– Ignorance : New design or new technology or new

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material applied and used with the confidence that the

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new knowledge was adequate… but unexpected failure.
The set rules were not adequate because of some element
of ignorance.

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• We need to make constant effort to remove ignorance and

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work out better set of rules
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Why aircraft structures fail…

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• Violent manoeuvre induced by the pilot (excessive “g"
force imposed on a wing or tail, etc.), --- Operating

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outside the permitted envelope

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• Violent manoeuvre

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caused by environmental

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There is constant

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conditions (wind gust,
effort to turbulence) --- Un-intentional
operation outside the permitted envelope

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• Pilot-induced

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over-speed,

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ignorance NEGLIGE

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• Improper maintenance or maintenance error,

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• Improper• assembly,

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build tools which
And, last butwill
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the prevent
least, IGNORA
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• Material degradation (fatigue, Corrosion, damage…..)

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negligence

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• Errors in behaviour prediction

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Ensuring Structural Integrity

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• What can go wrong?
– Normal Wear & Tear

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– Abuse – Usage beyond Intended conditions

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– Accidental Damage

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• How to handle - Need a strategy
– Design Strategy

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– Operational Strategy

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• Stake holders

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– OEMs (Design, Manufacture)
– Operators (Airlines, Airforces, …)

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MROs (Maintenance, Repairs)

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Regulatory Bodies

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Causes of Structural Degradation, Deterioration

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(Perm. Deform)

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Erosion

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Impact
Creep Damage

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Corrosion

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❖ Environment induced

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…&
others?
❖ Mech Load induced

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❖ External events

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FATIGUE

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Historical perspective …

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• Industrial revolution in 19th century: several
machineries developed & built. Many of them --
Steam engines, locomotives, pumps, etc -- had

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sudden failures after a period of successful run…..

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And that too without any visual evidence of plastic

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deformation. And no evidence of overload.
• 1837: Wilhelm Albert (studying failure of mining

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chains) published an article establishing a

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correlation between applied loads and durability.

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• 1839: Jean-Victor Poncelet, designer of cast iron
axles for mill wheels, officially used the term

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"fatigue" for the first time in a book on Mechanics

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• 1842: 

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Versailles rail accident: 8 May 1842

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August

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Wöhler
(1819-
1914)

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• Problem with axles. Metal fatigue was poorly understood at the

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time. The immensity of the accident initiated a systematic

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research into the problem. … in Europe as a whole.
• Work by Edwards, Rankine and others described the fatigue

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process

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• 1856–1870, August Wöhler : Pioneering work on fatigue,

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(tests, methodology, machines, fatigue design…) 24

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Wöhler (and others) ~1870

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• Systematic measurement of loads on axles. Importance
of arriving at proper service loads for design.
• Design of fatigue testing m/cs, creating test procedures

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• Extensive data generation, cyclic stress vs life

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• Amplitude of cyclic loads as the main factor

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• Recommended tests & procedure for notched configs.
• Noted scatter in fatigue lives, brought in concept of

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finite life on account of fatigue

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• Suggested origin of fatigue as crack initiation &

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propagation

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• Created standard design procedures for design (sizing,
detailing) of rotating components for fatigue.

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• In fact, S-N Curve is referred to as Wohler Curve by

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many

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What is fatigue?

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Fatigue is …
• a process in which damage accumulates due to

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repetitive loads which may be well below yield

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stress or static strength

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• a fracture phenomenon occurring after a large
number of load cycles where a single load of the
same magnitude will do no harm

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• a form of failure that occurs in structures

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subjected to dynamic and fluctuating stresses.

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Under these circumstances it is possible for
failure to occur at a stress level considerably

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lower than the tensile or yield strength for a

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static load.

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Stress – Life (S-N) Curve

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Fatigue: Cyclic low loads lead to failure!

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❖By the time Wright
Brothers build their

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aircraft, FATIGUE was a

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known phenomenon

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relevant for rotating parts,

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machineries. ….Not much

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attention was given to

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loads on structures.

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❖Also, STEEL dominated the

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scenario as a major engg

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material. …And steel had a

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fatigue limit. 28

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Early aircraft: Strut and wire-braced structures

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Wright Flyer

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1917
Sopwith
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• All structures: Rectangular

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Hawker

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frames, prevented from

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Hurricane
shearing or collapsing by
diagonally stretched wire.
• Use of Bamboo, Spruce Wood

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• Initial use of metal (~1930), just

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as a replacement of wood

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Semi-monocoque Structures

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• Room for passengers? … Experience from Boat building…”…bent

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wooden frames & double or triple skins, …with a clear varnished
finish…”
• First applied to fuselage… and then to wing as well.

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• Sheet metal technology could be effectively utilised

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Early years of aircraft structural integrity

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• Mostly strength based design with factor of
safety

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– Strength test on components

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– Early material, wood, had excellent fatigue
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– Not much was known about “fatigue loads”

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Sep 23, 1900: Wilbur Wright writing to his father

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I am constructing my machine to sustain about five times my weight
and am testing every piece. I think there is no possible chance of its
breaking in the air. If it is broken, it will be by awkward landing. My

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machine will be trussed like a bridge and will be much stronger than

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that of Lilienthal … ………

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Strength Test of an Aircraft (Early years)

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We will look at some more landmark events in the next class!

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Questions?

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