Rensselaer Alumni Magazine - Fall 2017 - 64
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"Don't Fly in 10 Years"
A precautionary plea to the aerospace industry |
"Don't fly in 20 years," my college teammate leaned over and
It was April 2010; I was on
my final leg of undergrad education. We were watching half
of our aeronautical engineering
peers give final presentations for
The school produced an impressive amount of excellent
engineers. But those are not
the people who stick out in my
memory. Perhaps that's one of my
Regardless, that off-hand remark is proving to be prophetic.
While everyone is handwringing about the events in Washington, D.C., a real, insidious, and
largely unknown threat is lurking
in the bones of every aircraft.
Time-based failure, specifically
crack growth in metals (fatigue),
appears to be an afterthought
in many analyses I've reviewed
in recent memory. This failure
mechanism is responsible for the
Comet crashes in the 1950s, F-111
in 1969, Aloha Airlines in 1988,
64 rensselaer/fall 2017
LAWRENCE STOKER '10
Chalk's Airlines in 2005, F-15 in or not) engineering rigor behind
2008, Southwest Airlines in 2011, every piece of aircraft structure.
and a firefighting C-130 in 2012.
Fellow engineers, we are the
In the Chalk's and C-130 cases, champions of airworthiness, and
the failures were directly a result we need to take our task seriously.
of poor repair design. These
are just the cases that have
Fellow engineers, we are the champions
gained some publicity. We
of airworthiness, and we need to take our
actually find cracks on airtask seriously. Trust in new technologies
craft all the time. With
is not our deliverance. Proper testing and
proper fleet management,
characterization is required.
we're able to deal with
these before they become
catastrophic. However, recent
Trust in new technologies is not
interactions have me wondering our deliverance. Proper testing
if not everyone is as concerned as and characterization is required.
they should be about this failure
Why is there such little focus
on aerostructures? It appears as
Companies keep asking the if all you have to do is say the
question, "What do millennials word "laser" (or synergy, for that
want?" Apple was able to figure matter), and you have all levels
this out with the iPod. Most of management and customers
people didn't know they wanted saying "take my money!" Maybe
an iPod until they acquired one.
we should coin the term LaserI submit to you that what mil- Focus-Analysis-Aerostructures.
lennials want is not coffee shops,
Could it be that the next airnap rooms, and hammocks. They craft crisis is right around the
want safe spaces...to fly! They bend?
want aircraft to stay airborne.
Our next wave of engineers
They want (whether they know it is going to be intimately familiar
with composites, 3-D printing, the
various computer-aided design
tools, and the latest-and-greatest
technologies. Like anything else,
all these need some form of validation, testing, and understanding.
It took us over 30 years to
finally get metals right. The
composites field is getting
to that point after nearly 30
years. We still learn something new every day. The
task is far from complete.
Lawrence Stoker is an aircraft
structural integrity program engineer for the U.S. Air Force. His
specialties involve taking finite
element analysis, comparing and
matching it to test data, and using
that fusion to inform fleet management decisions. He graduated magna
cum laude in 2010 from Rensselaer with a degree in aeronautical
and mechanical engineering. He
is a member of the Tau Beta Pi
National Engineering Honor Society
and the American Alpine Club.