Fokker and partners win innovation award for thermoplastic tailplane of the AgustaWestland AW169 new-generation helicopter

Fokker Aerostructures (NL), AgustaWestland (IT), TenCate Advanced Composites (NL) and Ticona GmbH (GE) have jointly won the prestigious JEC innovation award for the first thermoplastic composite horizontal tailplane of the AgustaWestland AW169 new-generation helicopter. The award will be officially presented to the partners at the opening ceremony of the JEC Composites Show, to be held in Paris, France on Tuesday March 12.

As the first of its kind in the aircraft industry, this main load-bearing primary structure convinced the renowned international experts of the JEC jury of its true innovative character. The value of this breakthrough innovation lies primarily in a 15% weight reduction compared with other composite solutions, resulting in lower NOx/CO2 emissions and lower fuel consumption. The award is an excellent achievement, and proves that sustainable innovations creating added value for the aerospace industry result from this close collaboration between the OEM AgustaWestland and the specialist supply chain, consisting of Fokker Aerostructures, TenCate Advanced Composites and Ticona.

The full-scale development of the horizontal tail started in July 2011. By the end of 2012, four AW169 helicopter had been fitted with the new horizontal tail. The AW169 horizontal tailplane has a length of 3 meters and spans tip-to-tip. Weight reduction is achieved by the stiffness of the thermoplastic material. Fokker has designed and developed this integrated solution as a co-consolidated, single-piece torsion box. Production time and costs are reduced by applying simple preforms to create the part. AgustaWestland expects the new AW169 to be highly successful in the commercial market.

The thermoplastic material used is Fortron PPS, a high-performance engineering polymer developed by Ticona a business of Celanese. TenCate Advanced Composites produces the carbon/PPS semipreg and plate material used. Composites made from PPS composites remain tough, impact-resistant, stiff and dimensionally stable, even when exposed to elevated temperatures and aggressive fluids.

The increased use of thermoplastic composites in the aerospace industry is a trend that is driven by considerations of weight reduction and sustainable development, as well as material recycling concerns. With its inherent flame-retardant properties, the material also meets the high safety standards specified by the aircraft industry. Until recently a combination of thermoset and traditional aluminum was used for primary structures.

Source: Fokker Aerostructures
Date: Jan 30, 2013