Testing for the Dreamliner
AMS test bench project: build-up of capabilities for pneumatic components
Anything is possible. This motto applies not only to the pioneers of aviation and other high-flyers, but also to some of the many technological innovations on the Boeing 787. Also known as the Dreamliner, the 787 includes more composite materials and more new components, systems and devices than any other long-haul aircraft Boeing has ever built before. Its pneumatic components for the supply of compressed air stand out in particular – first and foremost the cabin air compressor. One of the consequences is that the existing test benches and testing systems of maintenance, repair and overhaul companies are no longer suitable for these components.
To be able to test these latest components with the help of electric drives and state-of-the-art power electronics, Lufthansa Technik had to build up both knowledge and competence: For this purpose, a development project for an air management system (AMS) test bench was launched in March 2015. But before the project could really get going, it was necessary to ensure that all the information needed to build the test bench and testing systems was available. Lufthansa Technik therefore concluded a comprehensive contract with the American company Vortex Systems LLC, which had already built the component manufacturer's test bench in the United States.
The aim of the project was to produce a test bench by the end of 2017 that could be used to test the cabin air compressor (CAC), the motor-driven compressor and the ram air fan. The ram air fan supplies air to the ram air duct on the ground while the motor-driven compressor produces compressed air for the nitrogen generation system that provides nitrogen for the tanks. What is special about the CAC is that it replaces the bleed air system currently still found on almost all other aircraft types, which draws the cabin air from the engines. And since the power electronics of the CAC can also power other electric devices like the ram air fan and motor-driven compressor, those were considered during the construction of the test bay as well.
Lufthansa Technik decided to produce the test bench largely by itself and – unlike the component manufacturer's test bay in the U.S. – with the necessary CE conformity so that it would comply with the applicable product-specific regulations in Europe. In addition, all the engineers involved in the project were able to familiarize themselves with the complex testing system as early as the construction phase and contribute their know-how to the process. As a result, Lufthansa Technik was even able to improve some of the test bench characteristics and save a considerable amount of money on its construction thanks to the clever selection of subsystems and test bench components.
The selected pneumatic components – that is, the cabin air compressor, ram air fan and motor-driven compressor – have already completed successful test runs. It is therefore likely that the initial operation of the test bay and the production of the first devices at the Lufthansa Technik facility in Hamburg will take place as scheduled in November. The Boeing 787 fleets of all of Lufthansa Technik's airline customers are expected to grow by more than 50 percent in the next ten years. That means the development of this new technology will save Lufthansa Technik up to 25 million euros over this period.