A-10 Vertical Stabilizer Panel
A number of obstacles
The vertical stabilizer panel is a complex structure made up of Nomex Honeycomb, aluminum skins and fiberglass skins. The weight and strength of the v-stab panel are critical, as even the slightest error in calculation could lead to disastrous results. Producing new v-stab panels with the exact specifications of the originals was a challenge, and critically important since there were no longer any spare parts to pull from for the panel.
A number of obstacles prevented other engineering firms from completing the refurbishment process. V-stab panels are complex structures with tight tolerances, built from a combination of Nomex Honeycomb, fiberglass, and extremely thin aluminum sheets. Being able to control weight with a structure of this size is a challenge, and yet we felt confident in our ability to find a solution.
Bringing in the pros
Working on a project this large requires experts. We brought in our top engineers and spent weeks analyzing old parts, original drawings and specification sheets in order to come up with a working methodology. The procedures to build v-stab panels didn’t exist anymore — until we recreated them — which meant there weren’t any step-by-step guides we could follow to take us through the process.
TCB Composite facility is a cutting-edge facility with a state-of-the-art cleanroom, autoclave, and material cutting devices located in West Haven, Utah.Based on the methodology and manufacturing steps developed, we were able to create our own composite tooling — called bond forms — designed and manufactured by TCB and our KIHOMAC Prototype, Engineering and Fabrication Center (PEFC) in Layton UT. TCB is a wholly owned subsidiary of KIHOMAC. The
TCB Composite Facility
KIHOMAC’s TCB Composite facility is unique in that it is one of the only centers of its kind to be wholly owned by a small business. After investing more than $2 million into the facility, KIHOMAC is now able to custom manufacture its composite parts to support clients in the aviation marketplace. Together, PEFC and TCB offer a robust and unique capability to design and manufacture tooling, perform engineering and design and fabricate metal and composite aerospace assemblies.Visit the TCB Composite website
Review, tooling, prototype
Prototyping is a critical step whenever you’re replicating an original production. After starting with a series of design reviews, we moved on to design tooling until we were ready to build a series of prototypes. The first article has been completed which involved proofing out the production process.
Although we are currently awaiting government approval on our v-stab panels, we expect to go into production on the first article within the year. When that happens, it will be the first time a new v-stab panel has been produced since the 1970s.
Where other firms struggled, we were able to succeed. We are providing a greatly needed spare part — the v-stab panel — to support a total overhaul of the A-10 aircraft. The A-10 is an older aircraft, and we are proud to be dialing life back into it through a series of reinvention programs. This panel is a key part of a larger project, which is to make vertical stabilizers more repairable and sustainable for the long-term.