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News

Wingless aircraft based on advanced composite reinforcement

Chomarat Textiles Industries : 23 February, 2014  (Application Story)
For the first time at JEC Europe 2014, Chomarat is will presenting a quarter-scale version of the VX-1 KittyHawk (Paris, March 11-13 2014, M29 Hall 7.3). This aircraft, designed by VX Aerospace, has an unique shape that is structurally efficient thanks to the use of C-Ply, Chomarat’s advanced composite reinforcement material.
What makes KittyHawk so different from other aircraft is its shape: it has no wings! Indeed, the fuselage and wings are combined into one shape called a "lifting body" or "blended wing" aircraft.
 
The VX-1 KittyHawk combines the demonstrated advantages of blended wing aircraft with state-of-the-art design, materials and manufacturing techniques of today.
 
The shape of the KittyHawk has numerous advantages over traditional designs such as: greater useable internal volume, greater payload capability, better structural efficiency, better durability and better manufacturability.
 
The construction is thus facilitated as this design will have fewer parts and therefore be easier to assemble. In addition, the aircraft can be scaled to accomodate the intended mission. Manned or unmanned, the VX-1 KittyHawk’s massive internal volume is a huge advantage. 
 
Furthermore, it will have a smaller footprint than other aircraft when based on payload capability. “The volume will also allow KittyHawk to lead the way in adopting CNG (compressed natural gas) as an aviation fuel. Existing technology CNG tanks fit inside the aircraft with no aerodynamic compromise. At less than one third the cost of aviatio fuel, the KittyHawk will have unparalleled operational economy with emissions that are 40% cleaner.” says Bob Skillen, VX Aerospace CEO, who is keeping much of the detail behind the innovation under wraps.. 
 
The unique shape of the KittyHawk is made structurally efficient with the use of advanced composite reinforcement materials from Chomarat. C-Ply (pre-pregged with Cytec Industries’ resin system MTM 45-1 to create a low density, high damage-tolerant prepreg material) is the enabling material for VX Aerospace to use in its established hand lay-up and oven curing processes to achieve properties similar to autoclave cured UD (uni-directional) prepreg and automatically placed 
tape prepreg.
 
The C-Ply material is durable to handle during lay-up, drapable to accommodate the compound curvatures, and can be manufactured to fully optimize the design relative to fibre angles and ply weight to ultimately yield a low weight, high performance, and low cost finished product. 
 
“C-Ply is the first true advance in carbon fabrics in a long time. It is designed to optimize fibre performance. Chomarat capitalised on the low-angle, thin ply, non-crimp laminate concept developed by Prof Steve Tsai. The result is a fabric that allows for cost-effective production of open mould parts with the same (or better) performance characteristics of ATP parts. This is a game changer for small business," added Skillen. 
 
“Chomarat and VX Aerospace have developed a close working relationship, where Chomarat provides enabling material and VX provides important commercial feedback and testing that has helped define our directional priorities in the development of C-Ply.” says Brian Laufenberg, President of Chomarat North America. Flight testing will begin next month.
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