FAA William J. Hughes Technical Center
The New Structures and Materials Laboratory
The FAA William J. Hughes Technical Center has added to its assets a Structures and Materials Laboratory. The Tech Center, born in 1958 as the National Aviation Facilities Experimental Center, is now the primary facility where federal aviation safety research is performed and as such it qualifies as “the nation’s premier air transportation system laboratory.” On this campus, the FAA is involved in the following areas of study:
- Leads a world class laboratory research, engineering development, test, evaluation, and maintenance of air navigation, air traffic management, and future transportation system capabilities.
- Develops scientific solutions to current and future air transportation challenges by conducting applied research and development in collaboration with industry, academia, and government.
- Provides unbiased and independent, technically and operationally sound, aviation-related evaluations, analyses, data & services.
- Facilitates and governs the integration, transition, and strategic management of the Center’s technical products, services, and initiatives through collaborative work with FAA organizations and partnerships with other government agencies, academia, and industry.
- Develops the FAA’s research and development (R&D) portfolio through strategic planning, budget formulation, program execution, and program evaluation.
Now the Atlantic City Airport site is home to a $2 million Structures and Materials Laboratory. There, FAA scientists and engineers will assess new materials and structures as to their durability and the value of various construction methods. The data collected at this new building will provide the FAA Flight Standards and Aircraft Certification policymakers the information to be used in setting MX regulations and establishing the aircraft structure’s useful life. The scientists and engineers will be reviewing materials like 3-D printed parts to epoxy, which makes bonds for wing surfaces.
“Up until about five years ago little has changed regarding most aspects of airplane materials, design and fabrication techniques,” Shelley Yak, director of the Technical Center, explained to the audience for the Ribbon Cutting. “But now with the introduction of composite airframes, the onset of additive manufacturing and other new technologies that are just on the cusp of being accepted, the pace of change has increased dramatically.”
“Boeing has contributed the equipment that you see out here – a half-million dollars’ worth of equipment. It’s a true partnership,” said John Bakuckas, manager of structural integrity research for FAA, explaining what the airframe beam structural test fixture will be used for. He was one of several experts made available to the public and the press.
“They’ve also provided a design and have given that to us; now we’re in the process of fabricating that test capability,” he said.
A $2Million capital expenditure is important and necessary; however, Boeing spends between $3,000,000,000 and $4,000,000,000 a year on its Research and Development. Thanks to local Congressman LoBiondo (R, NJ), Chairman of the Aviation Subcommittee of the T&I Committee, the Tech Center is likely to be well funded, but one manufacturer’s annual R&D budget dwarfs the federal research dollars.