Lockheed Martin ACCA makes first flight
Lockheed Martins Advanced Composite Cargo Aircraft made ist successful maiden flight yesterday at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, Calif. The technology test bed for advanced composite manufacture is based on the 328JET.
"Today is one of those perfect days where I get to be the first to fly a new aircraft and everything goes exactly as planned. The aircraft was a real pleasure to fly and we experienced absolutely no issues," said Rob Rowe, the Lockheed Martin lead ACCA test pilot. Duration for the first flight was about 87 minutes, after take-off at 6:55 a.m. Pacific Time. The aircraft climbed to an altitude of approximately 10,000 feet where the two-pilot crew took the vehicle through a series of airspeed and stability and control tests.
The ACCA fuselage is wider and stronger to accommodate military standard 463L pallets and features a cargo door and cargo ramp. The vertical tail features integrally stiffened skin. Despite its larger size, the materials and processes used for the fuselage reduced the number of parts by an order of magnitude relative to the original metallic design (approximately 300 versus 3,000) and drastically reduced the number of mechanical fasteners (about 4,000 vs. 30,000), program officials said.
The ACCA isn't designed to be a prototype for a small airlifter or any other aircraft. It is a proof of concept technology demonstrator for composite manufacturing processes in a full-scale, certified aircraft. The new composite structure is manufactured without complex tooling and the bonding process yields a 90 percent reduction of structural components and fasteners, said Frank Mauro, the vice president of Advanced System Development for Lockheed Martin. The ACCA's large composite sections are essentially formed, cured and bonded together in room-sized ovens, instead of using expensive autoclaves, which use a combination of heat and high pressure. Out-of-autoclave curing of large, unitized and co-bonded structures minimizes part count.