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By applying its marine expertise to an aviation project, High Modulus has been able to incorporate ideas from the aviation sector into its own design methodology.
(Published on June 2008 – JEC Magazine #41)
Entrepreneur Lapo Ancillotti approached High Modulus for help with his latest project in 2004. Whilst Ancillotti was known for his involvement in managing yachting projects, this new venture aimed to develop a high-performance kit plane suitable for amateur plane builders.
Marine as a model
This raised a number of challenges, the most obvious being that you must construct at least 51% of the plane yourself to qualify as an amateur builder. Yet Falcomposite – the company founded to develop the concept – wanted to provide the kit in as few parts as possible. They turned to the successful use of composite technology in the marine industry as a model to achieve this goal. The Furio is based on the Falco (the Italian word for ‘Hawk’), a more complex timber plane that was designed by Stelio Frati and developed by Luciano Nustrini in the 1950s. Nustrini’s sons, Lapo and Giovanni, are partners with Ancillotti in Falcomposite, and were heavily involved with the final design of the Furio. They wanted to ensure that the original concept of a sleek Italiandesigned high-performance plane was maintained.
The involvement of New Zealand-based composite specialists, High Modulus, Mick Cookson and Marine Excellence, meant that the concept could be approached with fresh eyes from the very outset. Other kit planes do use composites, but they are often complex to build, lack quality control, and consist of thin skins with lots of framing – an approach applied by engineers used to developing metal structures, rather than composite design specialists.
The High Modulus team’s aim was to design a monocoque structure, but with detachable wings so the whole kit could fit into a six-metre container. The fuselage, wings and tail were designed to enter the kit completed, so amateur builders could trust in the critical structures, and focus on bolting the parts together. This monocoque approach is just one way in which the Furio plane differs from traditional aviation structures, which are typically more complex assemblies.
High Modulus teamed up with ANZES (Air New Zealand Engineering Services), with whom they are also cooperating separately on a multi-million dollar, multi-year “Research for Industry” project funded by FRST. ANZES helped them gain insight into the differences between aerospace and marine design methodologies. Aspects that were considered particularly interesting were the approach to the statistical analysis of mechanical tests, or the similarities between the load bearing on wings and those on the centreboards of canting keel boats. As a result of this collaboration, the company now has the capability to perform its material and laminate tests to US Military Standards, which are recognized around the world. It also has a more indepth understanding of the shock load and pressure distribution in dynamic loading of daggerboards on canting keel yachts. The various Furio components of the fuselage, wings, tailplane and control surfaces were each approached individually to establish the best manufacturing method to meet geometry and laminate requirements. The majority of the components were infused carbon fibre with PVC foam cores. The first plane was publicly unveiled in Auckland in early February, with kits 2 and 3 already being built.