TEES receives $4.2 million for aging aircraft center
SAN ANTONIO -- The Texas Engineering Experiment Station, a member of The Texas A&M University System, has received more than $4 million to help the U.S. Department of Defense develop, test and implement new technologies for the care and maintenance of aging aircraft. The $4.2 million Academic Center for Aging Aircraft (ACAA) is a partnership between TEES, the University of Dayton Research Institute and the Georgia Tech Research Institute. The Aircraft Sustainability Laboratory (ASL) -- located at Brooks City-Base in San Antonio and part of the TEES Texas Center for Applied Technology -- will manage the center. U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and Representatives Henry Bonilla and Ciro Rodriguez were instrumental in securing funding for the center. John Ayala, ASL manager and ACAA executive agent, said that aging aircraft is one of the biggest challenges facing the U.S. Department of Defense, NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Coast Guard. "Many of today's aircraft are older than the pilots flying them, and the industry must find ways to keep the aircraft in the air by extending the airplane's life while protecting the safety of crews and passengers," Ayala said. "But there has not been enough focused effort to address the problems of aging aircraft or to train personnel to manage fleets of 60-year-old aircraft." In addition, Ayala said that "aging aircraft sustainment costs are increasing at an unsustainable rate of seven to 12 percent per year and are eating into operations, procurement and other budget accounts." In an effort to significantly reduce the Department of Defense's $13 billion annual maintenance burden, the ACAA will test, evaluate, demonstrate and implement new, cost-effective technologies in controlling and preventing corrosion; develop new tools to diagnose aircraft problems; improve reliability, integrity and repair of aging aircraft; and work on new technologies for structural and mechanical systems, and wiring and avionics. The ACAA partnership is just one of many interagency collaborative projects taking place at Texas A&M. "We have a great deal of experience in interagency collaborative partnerships and have enjoyed a number of successes," said Dr. G. Kemble Bennett, TEES director and Texas A&M vice chancellor and dean of engineering. "We are proud to serve as a member of the center and expect to contribute to finding ways of helping protect public safety and save federal dollars." The center's initial focus is on military aircraft, but Ayala said that in later years, researchers hope to transition to commercial aircraft and other weapons systems.