Lucas launches 'power by wire' work

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Graham Warwick/WASHINGTON DC

Lucas Aerospace has launched development of an electric actuation system suitable for combat aircraft and large commercial transports, following successful completion of a 1,000h in-service test of "power by wire" on a US Air Force Lockheed C-141 Starlifter transport.

The so-called Electric Starlifter has Lucas-developed integrated actuation packages (IAPs) replacing the conventional hydraulic actuators on the ailerons. Each dual-channel IAP houses two electric-motor-driven hydraulic pumps which move the actuator.

The Electric Starlifter uses 7kW (9hp)IAPs. Steve Croke, director of technology at Lucas Aerospace Utica, says the company has begun development of a 20-30kWIAP aimed at the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) and other applications requiring more power. The larger actuator will be demonstrated early in 1999, he says.

The 1,000h in-service test demonstrated the reliability and maintainability of the IAP, Croke says, with no removals in the final 400-500h of testing and a remove-and-replace time between four and 10 times faster that for the current hydraulic system.

A parallel 5 million-cycle endurance test, equivalent to a 30-year, 30,000h service life, has been completed without the need to replace seals or pumps or refill the small hydraulic-fluid reservoir in each IAP, Croke says. Predictions had indicated that seals would need to be replaced at 1-2 million cycles.

Having completed its 1,000h test, the Electric Starlifter visited Boeing in Seattle and Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth, Texas, to be viewed by the rival JSF design teams.