FRP Composite Fuselage Installed on Luxury Helicopter
by Tencom Ltd.
When you think of Fiber Reinforced Polymer (FRP) composites being used on various modes of transportation, the first that probably comes to mind is body panels or other exterior pieces.
Supercars made of carbon fiber are all the rage and boats with FRP composite hulls require very little maintenance compared to conventional marine craft. Now, FRP composites are also being used to manufacture fuselages for luxury helicopters.
In this post, we will explore the reasons why FRP composite materials are increasingly popular for use in aircraft.
The HX50 Rotorcraft
The original concept for the Hill Helicopter HX50 Rotorcraft was born in 2007, but the transport itself is still in the conceptualization phase. Featuring a FRP composite fuselage, this luxury helicopter prototype is set to be in the flight testing phase in 2022. However, deliveries are not scheduled to be made until 2023.
Spearheaded by aeronautics engineer Dr. Jason Hill, the company wanted to create a high-performance fuselage that was lightweight and durable. They were able to get the take-off weight down to 3,640 pounds with 4 passengers and a pilot.
With the FRP composite fuselage installed along with a specialty turbine engine that delivers 500-hp, the helicopter only uses 34 to 35 gallons of fuel every hour. It can travel to an altitude of 10,000 feet, and its top cruising speed is 140 knots (161 mph).
Other FRP Composite Aircraft
This is not the first time that FRP composites have been used in aircraft. Recently, an entire airframe was constructed out of FRP composites for the DA50 RG aircraft. Using a 300-hp engine and retractable gear, this five-seater jet is designed to be fuel-efficient, easy to maintain, and long-lasting.
Another example that we’ve come across recently is the use of FRP composites to build aircraft cabins. Meant to prevent onboard fires during flights, these thermal-resistant interiors will save a lot of lives in the future.
Blurring the line between aircraft and aerospace craft, the SpaceShip Two is a supersonic prototype that delivers a zero-gravity experience and can reach an altitude of 50,000 feet. Oh, and did we also mention that it is made of FRP composites?
The engineering team wanted to use a material that could withstand exiting and re-entering the atmosphere without compromising the structure of the craft. After just passing its second flight test in June 2020, the future looks to be promising for this shooting star.
Advantages of Using FRP Composites in Aircraft
Aside from the fact that FRP composites are incredibly lightweight, flexible, and durable, they are also resistant to moisture and heat. With any type of transport, rust and thermal damage can be devastating. This is even the case for ground transportation like cars.
By using fiberglass or carbon fiber composites, engineers are creating safer aircraft.
Fire-Proofing with Tencom
Our experts here at Tencom prefer to use fiberglass for various applications due to its superior resistance to fire. As a non-conductive material, it can withstand extreme temperatures.
It won’t even start to melt until it reaches 2075°F, and it will never become combustible. That means that there is no chance of a fire breaking out, which is why engineers prefer using FRP composites for aircraft fuselages.
Although fiberglass pultrusions are already fire-resistant, we can enhance the material’s flame-retardancy by quite a lot simply by incorporating specialty resins. Adding these unique resins into the pultrusion process, our fiberglass profiles become even safer. Here’s how the process works.
First, E-glass fibers are bundled into what we like to call fiber rovings. These rovings are then pulled through a liquid resin bath and impregnated with liquid resin as well. For enhanced fire-proofing, we use epoxy resin with either polyurethane or vinyl ester resin.
Next, the mixture is pulled into a cast for curing. Once it has taken on its final shape, it can be removed from the mold, cut into pieces, and even pre-drilled for easy assembly.
Reinforced Fiberglass Profiles
We currently offer three types of fire-proof reinforced fiberglass profiles. Two are vinyl ester products, and one is a polyester resin product.
The high-temperature and fire-retardant vinyl ester fiberglass pultruded products are resistant to heat and corrosion without compromising the product’s overall tensile strength.
Meanwhile, the fire-retardant polyester resin profiles low smoke and low spread properties. This increases the product’s chances of surviving a full-fledged fire.
We also offer customization for fire-retardant fiberglass profiles to fit your specific project requirements. It can take up to 12 weeks to manufacture, but the results are well worth the wait.
We can create continuous spools of fire-resistant fiberglass profiles or we can cut them into 5-foot pieces. Thicknesses can vary from 0.060-inches to 2-inches in diameter, making them suitable for almost any application.
FRP Composites in the Home
While we generally see fire-resistant FRP composites used commercially, you can also use them for residential purposes. If you would like to upgrade your home to incorporate fire-retardant fiberglass, then we may be able to help.
Fiberglass is one of the most affordable FRP composites available on the market today. According to a 2018 study by FEMA, approximately 30% of all fires that occur are residential. These devastating fires can result in deaths and even more injuries every year.
While the number one cause of residential fires is cooking (50.7%), heating (9.4%) and electrical malfunction (6.8%) are also high on the list. By incorporating non-conductive, fire-resistant FRP composite products into residential buildings, the risk of fire due to heating or electrical malfunctions are minimized drastically.
Learn More at Tencom
Are you ready to get started on your next FRP composite project? Our experts are here to help. With over 22 years of experience in the field, we can customize fiberglass pultruded products to suit your specific needs.
If you would like to receive an accurate estimate or ask about customizations, get in touch with our team today.