Probabilistic Analysis of a Thin-walled Beam with a Crack
It is reasonable to assume that an aircraft might experience some in-flight discrete source damage caused by various incidents. It is, thus, necessary to evaluate the impact of such damage on the performance of the aircraft. This study is focused on evaluating the effect of a simple discrete damage in an aircraft wing on its static and dynamic response. The damaged wing is modeled by a thin-walled beam with a longitudinal crack the response of which can be obtained analytically. As uncertainties are present in the location and size of the crack as well as in the applied loads, their effects are incorporated into the framework consisting of structural response, crack propagation and aeroelasticity.
The first objective of this study is to examine the effect of damage represented by a crack on the wing flexibility that influences its deformation and aero-elastic divergence characteristics. To study this, the thin-walled beam is modeled by Benscoter thin-walled beam theory combined with Gunnlaugsson and Pedersen compatibility conditions to accurately account for the discontinuity at the interface of the cracked and uncracked beam segments. Instead of conducting a detailed finite element analysis, the solution is obtained in an exact sense for general distributed loads representing the wind pressure effects. This analytical approach is shown to provide very accurate values for the global beam response compared with the detailed finite element shell analysis. This analytical solution is, then, used to study the beam response probabilistically. The crack location and size are assumed to be uncertain and are, thus, characterized by random variable. For a specified limit state, the probability of failure can be conveniently calculated by the first order second moment analysis using the safety index approach. The same analytical solution is also used to study the aero-elastic divergence characteristics of a wing, the inner structure of which is represented by a thin-walled beam with a crack of uncertain size and position along the beam.
The second objective of this study is to examine the time growth of a crack under dynamic gust type of loading to which a wing is likely to be exposed during flight. Damage propagating during operation further deteriorates the safety of the aircraft and it is necessary to study its time growth so that its impact on the performance can be evaluated before it reaches its unstable state. The proposed framework for the crack growth analysis is based on classical fracture mechanics where the remaining flight time is obtained by Monte Carlo simulation in which various uncertainties are taken into account. To obtain equivalent cyclic loading required for crack growth analysis, random vibration analysis of the thin-walled beam is conducted for stochastic wind load defined by a gust load spectral density function. The probability of failure represented by the crack size approaching the critical crack size within the flight duration or the remaining flight time before a crack reaches its limiting value are obtained.
This study with a simple representation of a wing and damage is anticipated to provide initial guidance for future studies to examine the impact of discrete source damage on the in-flight performance of the aircrafts, with the ultimate goal of minimizing the adverse effect and enhancing the safety of aircrafts experiencing damage.