(19)
(11)EP 4 032 806 A1

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT APPLICATION

(43)Date of publication:
27.07.2022 Bulletin 2022/30

(21)Application number: 22152071.1

(22)Date of filing:  18.01.2022
(51)International Patent Classification (IPC): 
B64C 21/02(2006.01)
B64C 3/20(2006.01)
(52)Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC):
B64C 21/02; B64D 2033/0226; B64C 3/20
(84)Designated Contracting States:
AL AT BE BG CH CY CZ DE DK EE ES FI FR GB GR HR HU IE IS IT LI LT LU LV MC MK MT NL NO PL PT RO RS SE SI SK SM TR
Designated Extension States:
BA ME
Designated Validation States:
KH MA MD TN

(30)Priority: 22.01.2021 DE 102021101444

(71)Applicant: Airbus Operations GmbH
21129 Hamburg (DE)

(72)Inventors:
  • Bertolini, Ivano
    21129 Hamburg (DE)
  • Giaquinto, Stefano
    21129 Hamburg (DE)
  • Welz, Sebastian
    21129 Hamburg (DE)
  • Düren, Nina
    21129 Hamburg (DE)
  • Yap, Jeff Wee Hong
    21129 Hamburg (DE)
  • Höft, Michael
    21129 Hamburg (DE)
  • Jordan, Nicole
    21129 Hamburg (DE)

(74)Representative: Bird & Bird LLP 
Am Sandtorkai 50
20457 Hamburg
20457 Hamburg (DE)

  


(54)LEADING EDGE STRUCTURE FOR A FLOW CONTROL SYSTEM OF AN AIRCRAFT


(57) Disclosed is a leading edge structure (1) for a flow control system of an aircraft (101), comprising a double-walled leading edge panel (3) that surrounds a plenum (7) in a curved manner, wherein the leading edge panel (3) has a first side portion (11) extending to a first attachment end (17), wherein the leading edge panel (3) has a second side portion (13) extending to a second attachment end (19), wherein the leading edge panel (3) comprises an inner wall element (21) facing the plenum (7), an outer wall element (23) for contact with an ambient flow (25), a core assembly (97), wherein the outer wall element (23) comprises a plurality of micro pores (31) forming a fluid connection between the core assembly (97) and the ambient flow (25), and wherein the inner wall element (21) comprises openings (33) forming a fluid connection between the core assembly (97) and the plenum (7). The object, to provide a leading edge structure with increased flow efficiency, is achieved in that the outer wall element (23) extends from the first attachment end (17) to the second attachment end (19).




Description


[0001] The present invention relates to a leading edge structure for a flow control system of an aircraft, in particular for a Hybrid Laminar Flow Control (HLFC) system, where air is sucked in or blown out of a porous surface of a flow body in order to extend the region of laminar flow along the flow body. Further aspects of the present invention relate to a vertical tail plane comprising such a leading edge structure, an aircraft comprising such a leading edge structure or such a vertical tail plane, and a method for manufacturing such a leading edge structure. Instead of to a vertical tail plane the leading edge structure might also be attached to a horizontal tail plane or to a wing.

[0002] The leading edge structure comprises a double-walled leading edge panel that surrounds a common plenum in a curved, i.e. arcuate, manner. The plenum extends in a span direction through the leading edge structure.

[0003] When viewed in a cross section across the span direction, the leading edge panel has a first side portion extending from a leading edge point, i.e. from a fore tip of the leading edge structure, to a first attachment end on a first side of the leading edge structure, the first attachment end being configured for attachment to a further structure located downstream from the leading edge. Further, the leading edge panel has a second side portion opposite the first side portion, wherein the second side portion extends from the leading edge point to a second attachment end on a second side of the leading edge structure opposite the first side, the second attachment end being configured for attachment to a further structure downstream from the leading edge.

[0004] The leading edge panel comprises an inner wall element facing the plenum and spaced apart from the inner wall an outer wall element for contact with the ambient flow. Between the inner and outer wall elements the leading edge panel comprises a core assembly. The outer wall element comprises a plurality of micro pores, such as perforations, forming a fluid connection between the core assembly and the ambient flow. The inner wall element comprises openings forming a fluid connection between the core assembly and the plenum. The inner wall element is preferably made of fiber reinforced plastic (FRP) and the outer wall element is preferably made of titanium sheet.

[0005] Similar leading edge structures are known in the art. The known leading edge structures comprise an outer wall element extending around the leading edge point but having only a limited extension downstream from the leading edge point, so that outer wall element does not extend all the way to the first and second attachment ends but rather ends well ahead of the attachment ends, while the attachment ends are formed solely by the inner wall element. This is partly due to the fact that titanium sheet panels with a sufficient width to reach from the first attachment end to the second attachment end are not available on the market and that micro pores in the very downstream regions of the leading edge panel are not absolutely necessary for an effective flow control system, since the effect of flow control through the micro pores in the downstream regions is considerably lower than the effect of flow control through the micro pores in the upstream regions around the leading edge point. However, the known design with an outer wall element ending ahead of the inner wall element brings along a "two step" flow surface with a transition between the end of the outer wall element and the continuation of the inner wall element, that forms an obstacle for the ambient flow along the flow surface.

[0006] Therefore, the object of the present invention is to provide a leading edge structure with increased flow efficiency.

[0007] This object is achieved in that the outer wall element extends from the first attachment end to the second attachment end.

[0008] In such a way, a leading edge structure with a one-step, continuous and smooth flow surface is provided that does not form an obstacle for ambient flow streaming along the flow surface and, thus, decreases drag and increases flow efficiency of the leading edge structure. Further, the area of the micro pores can be extended further downstream closer to the attachment ends, thereby increasing the overall flow control effectivity. Moreover, the leading edge structure can be optimized in terms of weight and costs since the outer wall element also supports the attachment ends.

[0009] According to a preferred embodiment, the core assembly comprises a plurality of elongate stiffeners connecting the inner and outer wall elements and spaced apart from one another, so that between each pair of adjacent stiffeners a hollow chamber is formed between the inner and outer wall elements. Preferably, the stiffeners are formed from FRP integrally with the inner wall element. The plurality of micro pores form a fluid connection between the hollow chambers and the ambient flow, while the openings form a fluid connection between the hollow chambers and the plenum. Preferably, each hollow chamber comprises at least one opening. Such stiffeners and hollow chambers form a simple and effective core assembly through which air flow can pass during suction or blowing operation.

[0010] According to a further preferred embodiment, the outer wall element forms a first end edge at the first attachment end and a second end edge at the second attachment end. Preferably, the first end edge and/or second end edge extend in parallel to the leading edge and are preferably formed to extend along or rest against a vertical tail plane box of a related vertical tail plane. This means, the outer wall element extends as far as or even further downstream as the inner wall element at the first attachment end and/or at the second attachment end. In such a way, a full outer coverage of the leading edge structure by outer wall element is achieved.

[0011] In particular, it is preferred that the first end edge and/or the second end edge extend in parallel to at least one of, preferably all of the stiffeners. This means, the end edges extend in span direction. In such a way, the end edges can continuously abut a vertical tail plane box when the leading edge structure is attached to a vertical tail plane.

[0012] According to a preferred embodiment, the outer wall element comprises a main wall portion as well as a first wall extension and/or a second wall extension. The main wall portion includes the leading edge point. The first wall extension includes the first attachment end and preferably the first end edge. The second wall extension includes the second attachment end and preferably the second end edge. In such a way, the outer wall element might be formed by connecting the first and second wall extensions to the main wall portion, so that for the main wall portion a titanium sheet might be used with a width as available on the marked, while the remaining width required to cover the full leading edge panel from the first attachment end to the second attachment end can be covered by the first and second wall extensions.

[0013] In particular, it is preferred that the first wall extension is connected to the main wall portion via a preferably straight first welding seam. Alternatively or additionally, the second wall extension is connected to the main wall portion via a preferably straight second welding seam. First and/or second welding seams are preferably butt-welding seams, preferably formed by laser welding. However, other forms of welding or alternative forms of connection of the main wall portion to the first and/or second wall extensions are also possible.

[0014] It is further preferred that the first welding seam and/or the second welding seam are dressed, at least at the outer flow surface in contact with the ambient flow, to form a smooth transition between the main wall portion and the first wall extension and/or between the main wall portion and the second wall extension. In such a way, the first and second welding seams do not form a flow obstacle and laminar flow across the welding seams is possible.

[0015] It is also preferred that the first welding seam, preferably the entire first wall extension, is attached, preferably bonded, directly and preferably planar to the inner wall element with no core assembly in between. Additionally or alternatively, the second welding seam, preferably the entire second wall extension, is attached, preferably bonded, directly and preferably planar to the inner wall element with no core assembly in between. In such a way, the first and second welding seams are sufficiently supported by the inner wall element, wherein the bonding preferably forms an additional load path. Preferably, no micro pores are present in the first and/or second wall extensions.

[0016] It is likewise preferred that the micro pores are present in the main wall portion, preferably only in the main wall portion, and are distributed from the leading edge point to the first welding seam and/or to the second welding seam, preferably with a minimum distance from the welding seams. In such a way, the entire main wall portion can be used for flow control, thereby increasing overall flow control efficiency of the leading edge structure. A minimum distance of the micro pores from the first and/or second welding seam is preferably kept to avoid welding influence on the micro pores.

[0017] According to a preferred embodiment, the stiffeners, in particular at least some of the stiffeners, are formed integrally with the inner wall element. Integrally in this connection is to be understood as formed in one piece that is not separable or mounted together from separate components. Such a leading edge structure with stiffeners formed integrally with the inner wall element represents a very simple and light weight construction, since fasteners, such as bolts or rivets, can be avoided. Also, the mechanical properties are improved, so that material and, once again, weight can be saved. Additionally, manufacturing can be simplified and expedited, as the inner wall element can be formed together with the stiffeners in one common process step, e.g. by Resin Transfer Molding (RTM).

[0018] According to another preferred embodiment, the leading edge structure further comprises a back wall, in particular a membrane of CFRP material. Preferably, the back wall connects the first attachment end to the second attachment end of the leading edge panel, thereby enclosing the plenum together with the leading edge panel on a side opposite the leading edge point.

[0019] According to another preferred embodiment, the openings are formed as throttle holes having a predefined diameter adapted for a predefined mass flow rate through the throttle holes in order to achieve a predefined fluid pressure in the hollow chambers. In such a way, the mass flow rate through the micro pores can be controlled by the fluid pressure in the hollow chambers and, thus, by the predefined diameter of the throttle holes. Alternatively, the openings might also be formed such that they allow an uncontrolled mass flow rate and are not adapted to control the fluid pressure in the hollow chambers, for example by a number of bores or by one large diameter hole. In this case, the fluid pressure in the hollow chambers corresponds to the fluid pressure in the plenum, so that the mass flow rate through the micro pores can be controlled only by the fluid pressure in the plenum. Whether the openings are formed as throttle hole or as simple openings not adapted for a specific mass flow rate, may vary from chamber to chamber.

[0020] According to yet another preferred embodiment, the stiffeners have a solid cross section with a square or trapezoid shape. In such a way, the stiffeners provide plane support surfaced for the inner and outer walls elements.

[0021] According to yet another preferred embodiment, the stiffeners extend in the span direction, i.e. in parallel to the leading edge point, and preferably in parallel to one another. In such a way, the stiffeners may have a long extension.

[0022] According to a further preferred embodiment, the inner wall element is formed of a Fiber Reinforced Plastic (FRP) material, preferably from a Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic (CFRP) material. Further, the stiffeners might be formed as sandwich structures, each sandwich structure comprising a core element enveloped on opposite sides by separate layers of FRP of the inner wall element. In other words, the inner wall element splits up in two separate layers. One layer encloses the core element on the side facing the plenum, and thus forms the inner wall element in the region of the stiffeners. The other layer encloses the core element on the side facing the outer wall element or resting against the outer wall element. This layer is preferably formed in an omega shape, i.e. has an omega-shaped cross section. In such a way, a simple, strong and light weight integral construction of the inner wall element and the stiffeners is provided.

[0023] In particular, it is preferred that the core elements are formed of a foam material. Foam has a high stiffness at a low weight.

[0024] According to a further preferred embodiment, a plurality of support ribs, i.e. frames, are attached to the inner wall element in such a way that they face the plenum and extend across, preferably perpendicular to, the span direction along the inner wall element. The support ribs stiffen the leading edge structure across the span direction.

[0025] In particular, it is preferred that the support ribs are formed integrally with the inner wall element. In such a way, the inner wall element can be formed as one piece together with both the stiffeners and the support ribs. This further simplifies the entire leading edge structure and reduces additional weight.

[0026] It is further preferred that the support ribs are formed of FRP. This allows that the support ribs can easily be formed integrally with the inner wall element.

[0027] According to another preferred embodiment, the outer wall element is formed as a titanium sheet. Such titanium sheet provides the strength and stiffness required for the outer surface along the leading edge.

[0028] According to yet another preferred embodiment, the outer wall element comprises multiple sections, when viewed from a leading edge downstream, i.e. in a chord direction. The porosity varies from one section to another in terms of pore diameter and/or pore pitch. In particular, the diameter decreases and the pitch increasing from the leading edge downstream. In such a way, the mass flow rate of the air sucked in or blown out can be adapted to the demand. For example, in sections close to the leading edge point, where a higher mass flow rate is demanded, the pore diameter might be larger and/or the pore pitch might be smaller than in sections further downstream.

[0029] A further aspect of the present invention relates to a vertical tail plane for an aircraft. The vertical tail plane comprises a vertical tail plane box and a leading edge structure according to any of the afore-described embodiments. The vertical tail plane box has a first lateral panel with a first attachment portion and an opposite second lateral panel with a second attachment portion. Both the first attachment portion and the second attachment portion extend in the span direction. The first attachment end is attached to the first attachment portion, preferably such that the first end edge extends along, preferably rests against, the first attachment portion, and the second attachment end is attached to the second attachment portion, preferably such that the second end edge extends along, preferably rests against, the second attachment portion, so that the first side portion of the leading edge panel forms a continuous, preferably smooth, flow surface with the first lateral panel of the vertical tail plane box, and the second side portion of the leading edge panel forms a continuous, preferably smooth, flow surface with the second lateral panel of the vertical tail plane box. Preferably, the plenum is in fluid connection with an air outlet, such as an adjustable outlet flap with a rear-facing opening, for causing a vacuum in the plenum to draw ambient air through the micro pores and the hollow chambers into the plenum. Further preferably, the plenum is in fluid connection with an air inlet, such as an adjustable inlet flap with a fore-facing opening, for causing an overpressure in the plenum to blow out air from the plenum through the hollow chambers and the micro pores to the ambient. Preferably, the air outlet and the air inlet are provided in a cover panel on one side or on opposite sides of the vertical tail plane. Preferably, the vertical tail plane further comprises a connection duct connecting a lower end of the plenum to the air outlet and/or to the air inlet. The above explanations with respect to the leading edge structure apply vis-à-vis to the vertical tail plane.

[0030] According to a preferred embodiment, the first attachment end is attached to the first attachment portion by a first front line of fasteners extending through the main wall portion, and by a first rear line of fasteners extending through the first wall extension, so that the first welding seam extends between the first front line of fasteners and the first rear line of fasteners. Additionally or alternatively, the second attachment end is attached to the second attachment portion by a second front line of fasteners extending through the main wall portion, and by a second rear line of fasteners extending through the second wall extension, so that the second welding seam extends between the second front line of fasteners and the second rear line of fasteners. The fasteners can be e.g. bolts, lockbolts, rivets. In such a way, the main wall portion and the first and second wall extensions are each secured to the first attachment portion and the second attachment portion, respectively, by at least one line of fasteners, so that the first welding seam and the second welding seam, respectively, are not necessarily required for structural integrity of the outer wall element.

[0031] Yet a further aspect of the present invention relates to an aircraft comprising a leading edge structure according to any of the afore-described embodiments, or comprising a vertical tail plane according to any of the afore-described embodiments. The above explanations with respect to the leading edge structure and the vertical tail plane apply vis-à-vis to the aircraft.

[0032] Yet a further aspect of the present invention relates to a method for manufacturing a leading edge structure according to any of the afore-described embodiments comprising the following steps: The inner wall element and the core assembly is produced, wherein the stiffeners and the inner wall element are formed together as an integral part by a Resin Transfer Molding (RTM) process, in particular by a common RTM step. Preferably, also the support ribs are formed as an integral part together with the inner wall element and the stiffeners by an RTM process. Further, the outer wall element is produced. Then, the outer wall element is connected, preferably bonded, to the core assembly and/or to the inner wall element, wherein the outer wall element is preferably bonded against the stiffeners and against the inner wall element at the first and/or second attachment ends. The above explanations with respect to the leading edge structure also apply to the present method.

[0033] According to a preferred embodiment, the outer wall element is produced comprising the following steps: The main wall portion is provided, preferably formed by a titanium sheet of 1.25 m width and 1 mm thickness. The first wall extension and/or the second wall extension are provided, e.g. titanium sheets of 0.125 m width each and 1 mm thickness. Then, the main wall portion is welded, preferably butt-welded, to the first wall extension to form the first welding seam, and/or to the second wall extension to form the second welding seam, preferably by laser welding. By butt-welding the main wall portion to the first and/or second wall extensions a reliable and smooth connection between these parts can be produced.

[0034] In particular, it is preferred that the first welding seam and/or the second welding seam are subsequently dressed, at least at the outer flow surface in contact with the ambient flow, to form a smooth transition between the main wall portion and the first wall extension and/or between the main wall portion and the second wall extension. In such a way, the welding seams do not form an obstacle to the ambient flow thereby allowing a laminar flow along the flow surface.

[0035] Preferably, the following steps are carried out to produce the outer wall element: First, a blank of the main wall portion is provided. Then, the micro pores are produced in the blank after which it is sanded and etched. Subsequently, the first and/or second wall extensions are provided and welded to the main wall portion to form the first and/or second welding seams. After welding the first and/or welding seams are dressed to form a smooth and continuous surface. Finally, the outer wall element is formed, in particular bent, to the final curved shape of the leading edge.

[0036] Preferred embodiments of the present invention are explained hereinafter in more detail by means of a drawing. The drawing shows in
Fig. 1
a perspective view of an aircraft according to the invention,
Fig. 2
a perspective cut open view of an embodiment of a leading edge structure according to the invention,
Fig. 3
a cross sectional view across the span direction of the leading edge structure shown in Fig. 2,
Fig. 4
a detailed view of the second attachment end of the leading edge structure shown in Fig. 3,
Fig. 5
a detailed view of a hollow chamber of the leading edge structure shown in Fig. 3,
Fig. 6
a detailed view of another hollow chamber of the leading edge structure shown in Fig. 3, wherein the inner wall element has an opening formed as a throttle hole,
Fig. 7
an exploded view of the leading edge structure shown in Fig. 3,
Fig. 8
a perspective view of the outer wall element of the leading edge structure shown in Fig. 7, indicating the first and second welding seams,
Fig. 9
a side view of a vertical tail plane for an aircraft comprising the leading edge structure shown in Fig. 2,
Fig. 10
a detailed perspective view of a connection duct of the vertical tail plane shown in Fig. 9, and
Fig. 11
another perspective view of the connection duct shown in Fig. 10.


[0037] In Fig. 1 an aircraft 101 according to an embodiment of the present invention is shown. The aircraft comprises a fuselage 103, wings 105, a horizontal tail plane 107, and a vertical tail plane 109 according to an embodiment of the invention. The vertical tail plane 109 is shown in more detail in Fig. 9. The vertical tail plane 109 comprises a leading edge structure 1 according to an embodiment of the invention. Various embodiments of the leading edge structure 1 are shown in more detail in Figs. 2 to 8.

[0038] In Figs. 2 and 3 an embodiment of a leading edge structure 1 for a flow control system of an aircraft according to the present invention is shown. The leading edge structure 1 comprises a double-walled leading edge panel 3 and a back wall 5.

[0039] The leading edge panel 1 surrounds a plenum 7 in a curved manner, wherein the plenum 7 extends in a span direction 9. The leading edge panel 3 has a first side portion 11 and an opposite second side portion 13. The first side portion 11 extends from a leading edge point 15 to a first attachment end 17. The second side portion 13 extends from the leading edge point 15 to a second attachment end 19, as shown in Fig. 4.

[0040] The back wall 5 is formed as a membrane of CFRP material and connects the first attachment end 17 to the second attachment end 19 of the leading edge panel 3. In such a way, the back wall 5 encloses the plenum 7 together with the leading edge panel 3 on a side opposite the leading edge point 15.

[0041] The leading edge panel 3 comprises an inner wall element 21 facing the plenum 7 and an outer wall element 23 in contact with an ambient flow 25. Between the inner and outer wall elements 21, 23 the leading edge panel 3 comprises a core assembly 97 comprising a plurality of elongate stiffeners 27 spaced apart from one another, so that between each pair of adjacent stiffeners 27 a hollow chamber 29 is left open between the inner and outer wall elements 21, 23, as shown in Fig. 5. The stiffeners 27 extend in the span direction 9 in parallel to the leading edge point 15 and in parallel to one another.

[0042] The outer wall element 23 comprises a plurality of micro pores 31 forming a fluid connection between the hollow chambers 29 and the ambient flow 25. The inner wall element 21 comprises openings 33 forming a fluid connection between the hollow chambers 29 and the plenum 7. At some of the hollow chambers 29, the openings 33 are formed as throttle holes 35 having a predefined diameter 37 adapted for a predefined mass flow rate through the throttle holes 35 in order to achieve a predefined fluid pressure in the hollow chambers 29, as it is shown in Fig. 6. However, at others of the hollow chambers 29, the openings 33 are formed to allow a random mass flow rate and are not adapted to control the fluid pressure in the hollow chambers 29, as it is the case in the hollow chamber 29 shown in Fig. 5.

[0043] The stiffeners 27 are formed integrally with the inner wall element 21. The inner wall element 21 is formed of a Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic (CFRP). The stiffeners 27 have a solid trapezoid-shaped cross section and are formed as sandwich structures 39. Each sandwich structure 39 comprises a core element 41 enveloped on opposite sides by first and second separate layers 43a, 43b of CFRP of the inner wall element 21, wherein one layer 43a encloses the core element 41 on the side facing the plenum 7, while the other layer 43b encloses the trapezoid surface of the core element 41 on the side facing the outer wall element 23 by an omega-shape curse. The core elements 41 are formed of a foam material.

[0044] As shown in Fig. 2, a plurality of support ribs 45 are attached to the inner wall element 21 in such a way that they face the plenum 7 and extend perpendicular to the stiffeners 27 and to the span direction 9 along the inner wall element 21. The support ribs 45 are formed integrally with the inner wall element 21 and are also formed of a CFRP material.

[0045] The outer wall element 23 is formed as a titanium sheet and comprises multiple sections 47a, 47b, 47c arranged subsequently in a chord direction 49. The porosity varies from one section 47a to another section 47b, 47c in terms of the pore pitch, wherein the pore pitch increases from the leading edge point 15 downstream.

[0046] As shown in Figs. 4, 7 and 8, the outer wall element 23 extends from the first attachment end 17 to the second attachment end 19. The outer wall element 23 forms a first end edge 51 at the first attachment end 17 and a second end edge 53 at the second attachment end 19. The first end edge 51 and the second end edge 53 extend in parallel to the leading edge 54 and are formed to extend along or rest against a vertical tail plane box 55 of the associated vertical tail plane 109. This means, the outer wall element 23 extends as far as the inner wall element 21 at the first attachment end 17 and at the second attachment end 19. The first end edge 51 and the second end edge extend 53 in parallel to the stiffeners 27. This means, the end edges 51, 53 extend in span direction 9.

[0047] The outer wall element 23 comprises a main wall portion 59 as well as a first wall extension 61 and a second wall extension 63. The main wall portion 59 includes the leading edge point 15. The first wall extension 61 includes the first attachment end 17 and the first end edge 51. The second wall extension 63 includes the second attachment end 19 and the second end edge 53. As shown in Figs. 7 and 8, the first wall extension 61 is connected to the main wall portion 59 via a straight first welding seam 67. Additionally, the second wall extension 63 is connected to the main wall portion 59 via a straight second welding seam 69. First and second welding seams 67, 69 are butt-welding seams formed by laser welding. The first welding seam 67 and the second welding seam 69 are dressed at the outer flow surface 71 to form a smooth transition between the main wall portion 59 and the first wall extension 61 and between the main wall portion 59 and the second wall extension 63.

[0048] As shown in Fig. 4, the first welding seam 67 and the entire first wall extension 61 are bonded directly and planar to the inner wall element 21 with no core assembly 97 in between. Additionally, the second welding seam 69 and the entire second wall extension 63 are bonded directly and planar to the inner wall element 21 with no core assembly 97 in between. No micro pores 31 are present in the first and second wall extensions 61, 63. As indicated in Fig. 7, the micro pores 31 are present only in the main wall portion 59 and are distributed from the leading edge point 15 to the first welding seam 67 and to the second welding seam 69 with a minimum distance from the welding seams 67, 69.

[0049] Figs. 9 to 11 show a vertical tail plane 109 for an aircraft 101 according to the invention. The vertical tail plane 109 comprises a vertical tail plane box 55 and a leading edge structure 1 as described before. The vertical tail plane box 55 has a first lateral panel 75 with a first attachment portion 77 and an opposite second lateral panel 79 with a second attachment portion 81. The first attachment end 17 of the leading edge panel 3 is attached to the first attachment portion 77 such that the first end edge 51 extends along the first attachment portion 77, and the second attachment end 19 of the leading edge panel 3 is attached to the second attachment portion 81 such that the second end edge 53 extends along the second attachment portion 81. The first side portion 11 of the leading edge panel 3 forms a continuous flow surface 71 with the first lateral panel 75 of the vertical tail plane box 55, and the second side portion 13 of the leading edge panel 3 forms a continuous flow surface with the second lateral panel 79 of the vertical tail plane box 55. The plenum 7 is in fluid connection with an air outlet 83 for causing a vacuum in the plenum 7 to draw air from the ambient flow 25 through the micro pores 31 and the hollow chambers 29 into the plenum 7.

[0050] As shown in Figs. 4 and 8, the first attachment end 17 is attached to the first attachment portion 77 by a first front line of fasteners 85 extending through the main wall portion 59, and by a first rear line of fasteners 87 extending through the first wall extension 61, so that the first welding seam 67 extends between the first front line of fasteners 85 and the first rear line of fasteners 87. Additionally, the second attachment end 19 is attached to the second attachment portion 81 by a second front line of fasteners 89 extending through the main wall portion 59, and by a second rear line of fasteners 91 extending through the second wall extension 63, so that the second welding seam 69 extends between the second front line of fasteners 89 and the second rear line of fasteners 91. The fasteners 85, 87, 89, 91 can be e.g. bolts, lockbolts, rivets.

[0051] As shown in Figs. 10 and 11, the vertical tail plane 109 further comprises a connection duct 93 connecting a lower end 95 of the plenum 7 to the air outlet 83. In addition to the air outlet flap 83 the plenum 7 might also be in fluid connection with an air inlet (not shown) for causing an overpressure in the plenum 7 to blow out air from the plenum 7 through the hollow chambers 29 and the micro pores 31 to the ambient flow 25.

[0052] The leading edge structure 1 shown in Figs. 2 to 8 can be manufactured by a method including the following steps: The inner wall element 21 and the core assembly 97 is produced, wherein the stiffeners 27 and the inner wall element 21 are formed together as an integral part by a Resin Transfer Molding (RTM) process in a common RTM step. Also the support ribs 45 are formed as an integral part together with the inner wall element 21 and the stiffeners 27 by an RTM process. Further, the outer wall element 23 is produced. Then, the outer wall element 23 is bonded to the core assembly 97 and to the inner wall element 21, wherein the outer wall element 23 is bonded against the stiffeners 27 and against the inner wall element 21 at the first and second attachment ends 17, 19.

[0053] The outer wall element 23 is produced comprising the following steps: The main wall portion 59 is provided, which is formed by a titanium sheet of 1.25 m width and 1 mm thickness. The first wall extension 61 and the second wall extension 63 are provided in the form of titanium sheets of 0.125 m width each and 1 mm thickness. Then, the main wall portion 59 is butt-welded to the first wall extension 61 to form the first welding seam 67, and to the second wall extension 63 to form the second welding seam 69, by laser welding. The first welding seam 67 and the second welding seam 69 are subsequently dressed at the outer flow surface 71 to form a smooth transition between the main wall portion 59 and the first wall extension 61 and between the main wall portion 59 and the second wall extension 63.

[0054] By the present invention as described above, a leading edge structure 1 with a one-step, continuous and smooth flow surface 71 is obtained that does not form an obstacle for ambient flow 25 streaming along the flow surface 71 and, thus, decreases drag and increases flow efficiency of the leading edge structure 1. Further, the area of the micro pores 31 can be extended further downstream closer to the attachment ends 17, 19, thereby increasing the overall flow control effectivity. Moreover, the leading edge structure 1 can be optimized in terms of weight and costs since the outer wall element 23 also supports the attachment ends 17, 19.


Claims

1. A leading edge structure (1) for a flow control system of an aircraft (101), comprising

a double-walled leading edge panel (3) that surrounds a plenum (7) in a curved manner, the plenum (7) extending in a span direction (9),

wherein the leading edge panel (3) has a first side portion (11) extending from a leading edge point (15) to a first attachment end (17),

wherein the leading edge panel (3) has a second side portion (13) opposite the first side portion (11), extending from the leading edge point (15) to a second attachment end (19),

wherein the leading edge panel (3) comprises an inner wall element (21) facing the plenum (7) and an outer wall element (23) for contact with an ambient flow (25),

wherein between the inner and outer wall elements (21, 23) the leading edge panel (3) comprises a core assembly (97),

wherein the outer wall element (23) comprises a plurality of micro pores (31) forming a fluid connection between the core assembly (97) and the ambient flow (25), and

wherein the inner wall element (21) comprises openings (33) forming a fluid connection between the core assembly (97) and the plenum (7),

characterized in that

the outer wall element (23) extends from the first attachment end (17) to the second attachment end (19).


 
2. The leading edge structure according to claim 1, wherein the core assembly (97) comprises a plurality of elongate stiffeners (27) spaced apart from one another, so that between each pair of adjacent stiffeners (27) a hollow chamber (29) is formed between the inner and outer wall elements (21, 23),

wherein the plurality of micro pores (31) form a fluid connection between the hollow chambers (29) and the ambient flow (25), and

wherein the openings (33) form a fluid connection between the hollow chambers (29) and the plenum (7).


 
3. The leading edge structure according to claim 1 or 2, wherein the outer wall element (23) forms a first end edge (51) at the first attachment end (17) and a second end edge (53) at the second attachment end (19).
 
4. The leading edge structure according to claim 3 when dependent from claim 2, wherein the first end edge (51) and/or the second end edge (53) extend in parallel to the stiffeners (27).
 
5. The leading edge structure according to any of claims 1 to 4, wherein the outer wall element (23) comprises a main wall portion (59) as well as a first wall extension (61) and/or a second wall extension (63),

wherein the main wall portion (59) includes the leading edge point (15),

wherein the first wall extension (61) includes the first attachment end (17), and

wherein the second wall extension (63) includes the second attachment end (19).


 
6. The leading edge structure according to claim 5, wherein the first wall extension (61) is connected to the main wall portion (59) via a first welding seam (67), and/or
wherein the second wall extension (63) is connected to the main wall portion (59) via a second welding seam (69).
 
7. The leading edge structure according to claim 6, wherein the first welding seam (67) and/or the second welding seam (69) are dressed to form a smooth transition between the main wall portion (59) and the first wall extension (61) and/or between the main wall portion (59) and the second wall extension (63).
 
8. The leading edge structure according to claim 5 or 6, wherein the first welding seam (67) is attached directly to the inner wall element (21), and/or
wherein the second welding seam (69) is attached directly to the inner wall element (21).
 
9. The leading edge structure according to any of claims 6 to 8, wherein the micro pores (31) are present in the main wall portion (59) and are distributed from the leading edge point (15) to the first welding seam (67) and/or to the second welding seam (69).
 
10. A vertical tail plane (109) for an aircraft (101), comprising

a vertical tail plane box (55) having a first lateral panel (75) with a first attachment portion (77) and an opposite second lateral panel (79) with a second attachment portion (81),

a leading edge structure (1) according to any of claims 1 to 9, wherein the first attachment end (17) is attached to the first attachment portion (77), and wherein the second attachment end (19) is attached to the second attachment portion (81), so that the first side portion (11) of the leading edge panel (3) forms a continuous flow surface (71) with the first lateral panel (75) of the vertical tail plane box (55), and the second side portion (13) of the leading edge panel (3) forms a continuous flow surface (71) with the second lateral panel (79) of the vertical tail plane box (55).


 
11. The vertical tail plane according to claim 11, wherein the first attachment end (17) is attached to the first attachment portion (77) by a first front line of fasteners (85) extending through the main wall portion (59), and by a first rear line of fasteners (87) extending through the first wall extension (61), so that the first welding seam (67) extends between the first front line of fasteners (85) and the first rear line of fasteners (87), and/or
wherein the second attachment end (19) is attached to the second attachment portion (81) by a second front line of fasteners (89) extending through the main wall portion (59), and by a second rear line of fasteners (91) extending through the second wall extension (63), so that the second welding seam (69) extends between the second front line of fasteners (89) and the second rear line of fasteners (91).
 
12. An aircraft (101) comprising a leading edge structure (1) according to any of claims 1 to 9, or comprising a vertical tail plane (109) according to claim 10 or 11.
 
13. A method for manufacturing a leading edge structure (1) according to any of claims 1 to 9, comprising the following steps:

- Producing the inner wall element (21) and the core assembly (97);

- Producing the outer wall element (23); and

- Connecting the outer wall element (23) to the core assembly (97) and/or to the inner wall element (21).


 
14. The method according to claim 13 (when dependent from claim 5), wherein the outer wall element (23) is produced comprising the following steps:

- Providing the main wall portion (59);

- Providing the first wall extension (61) and/or the second wall extension (63); and

- Welding the main wall portion (59) to the first wall extension (61), and/or to the second wall extension (63).


 
15. The method according to claim 14, wherein the first welding seam (67) and/or the second welding seam (69) are dressed to form a smooth transition between the main wall portion (59) and the first wall extension (61) and/or between the main wall portion (59) and the second wall extension (63).
 




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Search report