Finding extraordinary engineers for exceptional clients

Are Composite Planes the Future?

February 5th, 2015

Many industries are looking for ways to improve their carbon footprints, and the world of aviation is no exception. Lighter aircraft, leveraging composite materials, is one way aeronautic engineers are helping the environment through their innovative research. One study predicts that if the world’s entire stock of aircraft used composite materials, it would reduce carbon emissions by a factor of 15 percent.

Let’s take a closer look at how some engineers are researching the use of composites in aircraft design to save fuel and ultimately reduce carbon.

British Universities study Life Cycle of Composite Airplanes

That 15 percent reduction in carbon emissions noted above comes from the results of a study conducted by the UK-based Universities of Sheffield, Cambridge and University College London. Researchers analyzed data from a comprehensive life cycle assessment of composite aircraft, including the Boeing Dreamliner 787 and Airbus 350. This data was then extrapolated to take into account a worldwide fleet.

The original assessment covered everything from a plane’s manufacture through its normal usage period, and finally its disposal. The study-derived data was compared to standard aluminum-based aircraft models. While emissions are higher for composite planes during their construction, this is more than made up by their 20 percent fewer carbon emissions during flight compared to aluminum planes.

Professor in Advanced Materials Technologies at the University of Sheffield, Alma Hodzic, commented on their findings. “This study shows that the fuel consumption savings with composites far outweigh the increased environmental impact from their manufacture. Despite ongoing debates within the industry, the environmental and financial savings from composites mean that these materials offer a much better solution,” said Hodzic.

The aircraft industry as a whole hopes to reduce carbon emissions by 50 percent by the end of this decade. The use of aircraft created with composite materials is one of the methods that will help achieve this goal.

If innovations in aircraft design inspire you to further your career in the world of aviation, talk to the experts at The Talley Group. As one of the top engineering staffing companies in Washington State, we remain a great source for Seattle aeronautic engineering jobs. Schedule some time with us today!

Efficient Aerospace Methods to keep Planes in the Air

October 8th, 2014

There aren’t many industries that value safety more than the world of aerospace. Aviation engineers spend rewarding careers formulating and developing new innovations improving aircraft efficiency and ultimately creating a more secure environment for both passengers and crew.

As the aviation industry continues to expand and carrying more travelers and cargo, improving safety in an environmentally sustainable fashion is a prime directive of many aerospace engineering programs. What follows is a look at one engineering program’s attempt to find non-destructive methods to improve aircraft maintenance and safety.

The A*STAR Aerospace Program offers Innovations in Aircraft Maintenance

Researchers and engineers at the Agency for Science, Technology, and Research (A*STAR) are developing methods to detect aircraft components in need of repair earlier than previously possible. Their hope is to lessen the cost of aircraft maintenance while increasing passenger safety. Leveraging non-destructive methods to find defects also saves time and money.

One major problem with aircraft is when water seeps into the body. A*STAR Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology’s Dmitry Isakov is leading a project to detect water in aircraft components before it adversely impacts performance during flight.

“Water always finds the easiest way to get in, which is around discontinuities such as joints and bolts. Once inside, the water expands and contracts as it freezes and melts, damaging structures, causing corrosion and increasing the aircraft’s weight,” said Isakov.

Detecting Water with a Vacuum

The engineers leverage a vacuum to detect water in an aircraft’s body. The vacuum causes the water to boil at room temperature with a resultant fast cooling detectable using thermal imagery. “Water detection using my vacuum method requires just one technician, is fast and highly sensitive, and there is no ambiguity with the sealant,” added Isakov.

This improvement in fault detection makes maintenance both more accurate and more inexpensive — a perfect result for an engineer.

If these aviation engineering innovations inspire you to take your career even further, talk to the talented staff at The Talley Group. As one of the top engineering staffing agencies in the Northwest, they are a great source of Seattle engineering jobs and timely career advice. Schedule a meeting with them today!

Engineering in Action: The Man Who Made Flying Safer

February 23rd, 2012

You’ve never met Don Bateman. But he might have saved your life.

More than 40 years ago, Bateman invented the “ground proximity warning” system that prevents pilots in poor visibility from flying a functioning airplane into a mountain or other obstacle.

Bateman’s technology eliminated “the number one killer in aviation for decades,” according to Bill Voss, chief executive of the Flight Safety Foundation.  “It’s accepted within the industry that Don Bateman has probably saved more lives than any single person in the history of aviation.”

How He’s Done It

Motivated by an airplane disaster he witnessed as a boy, Bateman has tracked air disasters for 40 years to devise ways of preventing them.

He developed his first system by taking data from the technology that was already on airplanes—the radar altimeter, the airspeed indicator—and synthesize the information to create a warning system. Twenty years later, he integrated GPS technology with ever-improving terrain data to upgrade his system and what it can do.

After 50+ years at Honeywell, Bateman is still working, still fine-tuning his technology. His constantly updated digital charting of terrain around the globe, which includes data derived from detailed maps compiled for the Soviet-era military, has created a priceless database used to keep fliers safe.

Bateman’s Technology Becomes the Law

Bateman devised his original ground-proximity-warning system (GPWS) in the early 1970s, using an airplane’s radar altimeter to detect rapid altitude changes as a plane approached terrain. A warning sounded if a plane was too low without the landing gear deployed or if the descent was too fast.

After a TWA 727 crashed into a Virginia mountainside in December 1974, the FAA ordered that Bateman’s technology be installed on all large airliners. That rule was later extended to all airplanes carrying more than six passengers.

Since 1994, when Bateman integrated GPS technology into his system, most airlines have installed  the enhanced system on their entire fleets.  Today, it is installed on about 55,000 airplanes worldwide. And Bateman studies each new aviation accident for even further enhancements.

Well-Deserved Honors

It’s impossible to quantify precisely how many lives Bateman’s technology has saved.

Since the FAA certified the enhanced system in 1994, Honeywell has identified about 80 incidents where pilots reported that the warnings averted disaster. Overall, Bateman’s technology has reduced the likelihood of a once-common type of airplane crash by 99.9 percent.

In September 2011, President Obama awarded Bateman the National Medal of Technology and Innovation. He had already earned induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2005.  All of this for an electrical engineer who started off working at a telephone equipment company.

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