Paris Air Show

NRC helps Canadian aero firms stay sharp

 - June 15, 2009, 7:40 AM

Eurocopter and Canada’s National Research Council (NRC) signed a 10-year agreement on research and technology cooperation, ranging from manufacturing technologies to flight tests for environmental investigations.

The deal with Eurocopter comes a day after the NRC and the Boeing Company announced that they have found a way to create ice crystals in a simulated aircraft engine test rig in air temperatures above the freezing point, a capability the NRC describes as a significant step forward in the understanding of how ice accumulates under such conditions.  

“This work is a critical part of Boeing’s multi-step action plan to tackle this important industry safety issue,” said Boeing aviation safety director Corky Townsend.
“Demonstration of this type of ice formation in a high-level test will further our understanding of how and why ice crystals form in a warm engine. This brings us one step closer to finding a solution.”

In flight, ice crystals can enter the engine and form ice on engine surfaces in the core flow path, where the air temperature is above freezing. NRC researchers conducted the tests in the council’s research altitude test facility, where they could create both cold conditions outside the engine and the warm conditions inside, to accurately simulate the in-flight environment. They then produced ice crystals in the range of 70 to 210 microns in concentrations up to 15 grams per cubic meter and blew them into the simulated engine rig for the test.

Although researchers aimed to create ice accretion in any quantity in a simulated engine S-duct in temperatures above 0 degrees C (32 degrees F), they succeeded far beyond expectations, according to the NRC, and managed to build ice formations of the size that could affect engine performance. Also, because they recorded the tests using regular and high-speed video, the researchers can now define some conditions in which accretion will and will not occur.

Further research will look at increasing the ratio of liquid water to ice crystals at the ice accretion site. Later projects will use altitude capabilities in the NRC test facility to investigate the effect of high density on ice accretion.

Meanwhile, NRC announced the launch of the Canadian Environmental Technology Road Map, which identifies the pre-competitive technologies and infrastructure the Canadian aerospace industry needs to meet environmental and sustainability requirements over the next 10 to 15 years. Industry participants in the year-long process include Bombardier Aerospace, Air Canada, Bell Helicopter Textron Canada, Pratt & Whitney Canada, Rolls-Royce Canada, Messier-Dowty and Standard Aero. The technologies identified by the process fall into four categories: engine emissions, aircraft noise, aircraft fuel and life-cycle impact, including the effects of manufacturing, repair, overhaul and disposal.

Bombardier, for one, has already benefited from the NRC’s expertise in the field of robotics. The Montreal-based airframer recently introduced its first robotics system for the assembly of aircraft components, improving productivity in a broad sense and reducing tendonitis and related health problems in workers. With help from the NRC, Bombardier has implemented an automated positioning system, whereby robots replace a human operator who would previously position a fuselage panel on a riveting machine. “Now, instead of handling the fuselage panel, workers…monitor the positioning operations done by robots,” said NRC group leader for automation and robotics Claude Perron.

Other studies involving the NRC include tests of “oil free” engine bearings that it claims can significantly reduce fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Oil-free bearings–also called “foil” or “compliant” bearings–respond to an industry trend to increase the power density of turbines by making them smaller, lighter, faster and hotter. Oil loses its slipperiness at the high operating temperatures where turbines run most efficiently, and up to a quarter of a conventionally oiled turbine’s weight consists of lubricating pumps, filters and oil channels.    

Wind Tunnel Tests Rework C-17 Flaps

Canada’s National Research Council has conducted a series of wind-tunnel tests to assist Boeing in making wing flap changes to the C-17, with the aim of increasing lift and shortening required runway length. A 4.8-percent scale model of the C-17 was tested in NRC’s closed-circuit nine- by nine-meter tunnel near MacDonald-Cartier International Airport in Ottawa. A substantial amount of data was collected with various wing flap configurations, which will be used by Boeing to verify the subtle changes it intends to make to the C-17’s flap system.