SAN ANTONIO – Southwest Research Institute has received a $1 million contract from the U.S. Air Force, with Sabreliner Aviation, to continue maintaining an aging fleet of military aircraft.
SwRI has been maintaining and monitoring the structural integrity of the Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II for about 20 years, SwRI Principal Engineer Luciano Smith said.
“Work like this is vital to extending the lifetime of these aircraft,” Smith said.
The A-10 came into service in the late 1970s, and the fleet is currently set to continue service until at least 2040. SwRI’s structural engineers perform damage tolerance analysis for military and commercial aircraft and provide the information necessary to safely and effectively manage the structural health of their fleets.
In 2002, SwRI developed a flight data recording system that is still utilized on the aircraft to help engineers understand the structural stresses associated with various flight maneuvers.
“It’s important to understand the stresses on the aircraft because that will tell us where cracks will grow and how fast,” Smith said. “That also feeds into deciding how often inspections are needed.”
SwRI has provided technical engineering support to the Air Force for several decades.