The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and Lockheed Martin
's famed 'Skunk Works' recently launched a new era of aircraft manufacturing technology and performance with the successful first flight of the Advanced Composite Cargo Aircraft (ACCA) at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, CA. The ACCA is a modified Dornier 328J aircraft with the fuselage aft of the crew station and the vertical tail removed and replaced with completely new structural designs made of advanced composite materials. The June 2 flight marked the final and most significant milestone of Phase II of the Air Force Research Laboratory ACCA program, said Barth Shenk, ACCA program manager. "This has the potential to change aircraft manufacturing as we presently know it, for the better," Shenk said. The ACCA is a proof of concept technology demonstrator for composite manufacturing processes for full-scale aircraft. Upcoming test activity will focus on establishing the flight envelope of the ACCA to baseline its flight performance and validate predicted structural performance. Accurate prediction of structural behavior in the flight environment is a key step in establishing the eligibility of the technologies for transition into future programs so that the cost savings ACCA has demonstrated can be realized.