The US Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) has successfully demonstrated additively manufactured flight critical components during a test flight of its MV-22B Osprey aircraft. The aircraft was fitted with an additively manufactured titanium link and fitting assembly for the engine nacelle.
The link and fitting assembly is one of four that secure a V-22’s engine nacelle to the primary wing structure and will remain on the aircraft for continued evaluation. The flight was performed using the standard V-22 flight performance envelope.
“The flight went great. I never would have known that we had anything different onboard,” stated MV-22 Project Officer Maj. Travis Stephenson, who piloted the flight.
The metal link and fitting assembly for this test event were printed at Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Lakehurst, New Jersey. Prior to this flight, multiple V-22 components built by Lakehurst and Penn State Applied Research Laboratory were tested at Patuxent River to validate performance.
“The flight today is a great first step toward using AM wherever and whenever we need to. It will revolutionise how we repair our aircraft and develop and field new capabilities – AM is a game changer,” stated Liz McMichael, AM Integrated Product Team lead. “In the last 18 months, we’ve started to crack the code on using AM safely. We’ll be working with V-22 to go from this first flight demonstration to a formal configuration change to use these parts on any V-22 aircraft.”
Naval Aviation has employed Additive Manufacturing as a prototyping tool since the early 1990s and in recent years has begun the process of printing non-flight critical parts and tools.
Including the V-22 link and fitting assembly, McMichael and her team have identified six additional safety-critical parts they plan to build and test over the next year for three U.S. Marine Corps rotorcraft platforms – the V-22, H-1 and CH-53K. Three of the parts will be made out of titanium, while the other three will be stainless steel.
“Our AM team has done some incredible work in a relatively short period of time, both internally through its production of aircraft components to be used in flight testing and externally through its liaison with industry and other government organizations,” stated Vice Admiral Paul A Grosklags, NAVAIR commander.
“Although the flight today is a great step forward, we are not trying to ‘lead’ industry in our AM efforts, but it is absolutely critical that we understand what it takes to successfully manufacture and qualify AM parts for flight in naval aircraft, which we expect will largely be manufactured by our industry partners. Where I believe we can ‘lead’ industry is in the development of the AM “digital thread,” from initial design tools all the way to the flight line, securely maintained and managed through the life of an aircraft program,” added Vice Admiral Grosklags.