Aircraft damage - Composite Airframe

Talk about airplanes! At last count, there are 39 (and growing) FAA certificated S-LSA (special light sport aircraft). These are factory-built ready to fly airplanes. If you can't afford a factory-built LSA, consider buying an E-LSA kit (experimental LSA - up to 99% complete).

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foresterpoole
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Aircraft damage - Composite Airframe

Postby foresterpoole » Tue Dec 06, 2016 2:12 pm

OK, I know I'm just full of questions, but here goes another thread where I can try to learn something. Lately I've been perusing the classifieds looking into what a light sport aircraft will cost and what's available. I've looked at quite a few (I guess you could say electronically kicking the tires), but have a question about reported damage. Here is the situation: I ran across an Esqual VM-1 tail number N93TW it looked too good to be true, reasonable price lower hours and sure enough I ran a query in aviation database and it came back as having an accident. It appears the aircraft landed hard and the nose-wheel collapsed. I'm pretty sure that means a prop strike as well and since it's a Jabru no slipper clutch or gearbox to take the hit. All that said, on a standard aluminum air frame (especially older 172's or gear-up Mooney's) it's not uncommon I've learned to have damage history. However, on a fiberglass/composite how could you (if its even possible) figure out if it was structurally repaired and/or repaired correctly? When I read up on composites it seems like there could be "hidden" damage inside the resin/substrate matrix that is almost microscopic and very hard to detect. I'm very familiar with fiberglass boats and their repairs from my friends Mastercraft which he ran in the Red River and hit a submerged log with, but not on air frames, are they pretty much the same? As a side note here I'm not looking that hard at the aircraft listed above, it was just an example of something I'd like more information on if possible...
Ed

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drseti
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Re: Aircraft damage - Composite Airframe

Postby drseti » Thu Dec 08, 2016 9:34 am

This is covered in my EAA webinar "how to buy a used LSA." Search for it by title, or my name, on eaa.org/webinars.
The opinions posted are those of one CFI, and do not necessarily represent the FAA or its lawyers.
Prof. H. Paul Shuch, Ph.D., CFII, LSRM-A/GL/WS/PPC, iRMT
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foresterpoole
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Joined: Thu Sep 22, 2016 12:28 pm
Location: Alexandria, LA

Re: Aircraft damage - Composite Airframe

Postby foresterpoole » Fri Dec 09, 2016 1:53 pm

Thanks for the advice, I was able to find the presentation and it had some great information. My only question now is how do I hire you to do an inspection once I find an aircraft? Your curriculum vitae is quite impressive :D ! I also did some additional reading on composite air-frame stress from reputable sources (NASA being one) and the more I read the more cautious I become about buying a used one. Not because it may be damaged, but because of the specialized nature of repair and the "hidden" nature of stress fractures in the substrate that might not be apparent until possible catastrophic failure. I'm also not in love with possible UV issues and moisture infiltration since I live in a very hot humid environment. At least with aluminum I can physically see the corrosion. As Doc's video aptly points out "no damage history" is basically a worthless marketing claim unless it's backed up by a through inspection and complete and accurate logbooks.
Ed

MackAttack
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Re: Aircraft damage - Composite Airframe

Postby MackAttack » Sat Dec 10, 2016 4:46 pm

Agree with eyeflygps and that's one reason I went with the all-metal Tecnam Astore. Repairs are simpler and damage is hard to hide. Having said that, with a good pre-buy inspection, I would not shy away from a composite airframe, especially with a newer aircraft. Lots of great airplanes have composite airframes (e.g., Cirrus aircraft plus many LSAs, including the Tecnam P2008 which has a composite fuselage for example).


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