New Helicopter Composite Structures R&D Cooperation Commences

15 April 2007

The Cooperative Research Centre for Advanced Composite Structures (Composites CRC) and its new partners have started the detailed planning phase of their new three-year, AUD 10.3 million R&D program to support the emerging helicopter composite structures industry centred in south-east Queensland.

The leader of the industrial team is Australian Aerospace which is developing major new facilities for helicopter production in Brisbane. Australian Aerospace has won the Government’s AIR 87 and AIR 9000 programs for new military helicopters, which are substantially constructed from advanced composite materials. “Australian Aerospace already operates an Asia-Pacific Centre of Excellence in Brisbane to supply the Australian Army’s Tiger Armed Reconnaissance Helicopters, and the new MRH90 troop lift helicopters, which now stand at 46 in total,” said Mr Joseph Saporito – Australian Aerospace Chief Executive Officer. As previously announced, an investment of up to AUD 15 million has been committed for the state-of-the-art composites manufacturing plant in Queensland.

The Composites CRC has worked with both the Queensland and Commonwealth Government to obtain substantial support under their respective schemes known as the Smart State Innovation Fund and the Cooperative Research Centres Supplementary Funding Program. Over the period of the present plan, total government investment will be AUD 5.4 million. The remainder of the planned funding will be made up of cash and in-kind contributions of a similar magnitude from the industry and research partners.

A large array of talent has been assembled by the Composites CRC to take on the challenge of creating and sustaining a globally-competitive hub for helicopter composite component design, manufacture and through-life support. In Queensland, Buchanan Advanced Composites, QMI Solutions and the University of Queensland, each will make crucial technical and business inputs to the program. Additionally, specialist contributions will be made in New South Wales by Pacific Engineering Systems International and The University of New South Wales, and in Victoria, by the Defence Science and Technology Organisation – Air Vehicles Division.

“The Composites CRC has a 15-year track record in assisting local industry to be internationally competitive and fully engaged in the fixed wing aircraft business, and this expertise is now to be turned to developing new technologies relevant to rotary-wing aircraft structures,” said Professor Murray Scott – Composites CRC Chief Executive Officer. The program is expected to have the following major outcomes:

• Improved techniques to manufacture advanced aerospace composite structures for helicopters
• Novel and cost-effective repair and maintenance technologies for advanced composite components for helicopters
• An advanced design and construct capability in composite helicopter structures and components

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