An Airbus A310 has been modified to operate with a fuselage panel made from the hybrid material Glare.

It will test the in-service performance of the lightweight composite as a primary structure. Glare is one of the key materials that being considered by Airbus for use on the A3XX.

The company is considering using Glare (glass-fibre reinforced aluminium) for the upper fuselage skin of the proposed A3XX large airliner. A decision on its use is expected by the end of this year.

The material has been developed by Fokker Aerostructures subsidiary Structural Laminates Industries. Although it has been used extensively in secondary aircraft structures such as cargo deck flooring, the German air force A310 multi-role transport fitted with the panel is the first to be certificated for operation with Glare used in the primary structure.

"The installation of a Glare panel in the A310 is a major step in demonstrating behaviour under actual service conditions," says Fokker.

The panel, measuring 3.7 x 1.5m, has been installed between frames 35-40 and stringers 5-13 on the right forward fuselage of the A310. Three layers of aluminium sandwich two layers of glass fibre-reinforced metal adhesive.

Modifications were made during the aircraft's conversion for a military use by Lufthansa Technik, with DaimlerChrysler Aerospace Airbus, and certificated by Germany's civil aviation authority.

Eric Scheeren, Fokker's Glare programme deputy manager, says the panel weighs at least 10%less than its aluminium equivalent would. He adds it should be no more expensive to maintain using "standard aluminium repair methods". The panel will be regularly inspected for corrosion and cracking, though Scheeren believes there will be hardly any cracks.

The Glare panel is expected to be less susceptible to corrosion than panels made from aluminium. It should be in service on the military A310 for at least 10 years.

Source: Flight International