Airframe Technology: Composite Repair Training

How do small repair shops manage training for accomplishing advanced composite repairs?

For Cirrus, many repairs are accomplished by carefully cutting the damaged area from the aircraft, cleaning and preparing the area according to the maintenance instructions, fitting a replacement section which was fabricated by the factory into the cut-out on the aircraft, and bonding it into place according to the repair instructions provided. Wright says, “The use of wet-layups with slightly elevated curing temperatures, in this application, make it much easier for the general aviation repair shop, while still providing high-quality repairs.”

Light sport aircraft repair
Another type of aircraft to employ advanced composite materials is the light sport aircraft (LSA). For those of you familiar with LSAs many of them use advanced composite materials in their construction processes. And, many small shops are now finding themselves faced with accomplishing advanced composite repairs on LSAs.

Such is the case with Stanton Sport Aviation also located in Minnesota. It operates the Flight Design CTsw aircraft as a rental and training aircraft, and has also become an authorized service center for the Flight Design LSA.

AMT spoke with Kent Johnson of Stanton Sport Aviation on how they managed the need for training on advanced composite repairs. Johnson says, “We first accomplished a few small repairs and we did have some experience on composites having previously accomplished composite repairs on gliders. As one of the only Flight Design (FD) authorized service centers in the upper Midwest, we were soon asked about accomplishing larger more complicated repairs.”

For this shop, training on how to accomplish the larger repairs came in a couple phases. First Johnson attended a composite repair course provided by Flight Design USA through Lockwood Aviation Repair of Sebring, FL. This course taught the basics of identifying material, resins and epoxies, and different layup procedures for accomplishing composite repairs on this type aircraft.

The repair philosophy of Flight Design is also to make it easy as possible for the small repair shop. Tom Peghiny, president of Flight Design USA, says, “There is a misconception that composite repair is extremely difficult. Small dings and non-structural repairs can be repaired with basic training using instructions provided in the maintenance manual that comes with every one of our aircraft. As more and more composite aircraft are now in the field, finding someone to do repairs for our customers has not been a problem.”

The next phase for Johnson came when he was asked to repair an aircraft that suffered some significant wing damage. In this case Flight Design sent a composite repair specialist from the factory in Germany to Minnesota. Similar to the Cirrus example, the damage was carefully removed and replacement sections fabricated by the factory were bonded in place. Johnson says, “We understand the importance of proper training, continued education, and the need for qualified repair shops to handle the growing demand for composite damage repair on small aircraft. The approach we took resulted in two benefits: The shop had the expertise of a factory representative to accomplish the major parts of the repairs, while at the same time providing us with valuable on-the-job training.”

In these two examples the small shops receive their training through or directly from the aircraft manufacturer.

Training companies
In addition to manufacturers, many companies around the world provide individuals or repair shops with basic and advanced repair training. One of these schools is Abaris Training.

Abaris has taught a variety of composite training courses for more than 20 years, and its students have come from airlines, general and corporate aviation, the military, and aviation regulators from the United States and abroad.

Abaris Training recently developed a very comprehensive textbook on composite materials which it uses for some of its training courses. This book has been published by Aviation Supplies & Academics Inc. and is titled, “Essentials of Advanced Composite Fabrication & Repair.” It provides a thorough education in the basics of composites for beginners, yet will also keep the experienced composite repair technician up to date in the advanced composite industry.

Abaris Training recommends this book to those people and shops getting into the composite repair business, and for those already experienced in accomplishing composite repairs.

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