The use of next-generation construction materials, such as fibre-reinforced thermoplastics, make aircraft lighter, more economical and cost efficient. This makes the air transport industry more sustainable. Last year, NLR tested a horizontal tail stabiliser made of a next-generation thermoplastic composite.

Thermoplastic composites for aircraft construction are researched in the TAPAS programme (Thermoplastic Affordable Primary Aircraft Structures), in which Dutch-based manufacturers and knowledge institutes have joined hands with Airbus. The eight Dutch partners are active in the Dutch air transport industry, working in close cooperation with Airbus on material, production and connection technology and design. The technology is purpose-developed for future Airbus applications, including primary structural sections such as the fuselage and wings.
In 2012, NLR tested a high load-bearing aircraft structure made of a fibre-reinforced thermoplastic composite. The TAPAS torsion box demonstrator, representing the horizontal tail stabiliser of a business jet, was manufactured by Fokker Aerostructures BV.

After inflicting impact damages, the test section was subjected to fatigue loading and static loads were added to 165% of limit load. The tests were successful and the section showed no sign of damage or damage growth. After inflicting further, relatively heavy damages, further fatigue tests were conducted. The section again passed these tests with flying colours. In the final static test, to determine its breaking point, the vertical tail stabiliser was tested to 240% of limit load. Even under these extreme conditions, the structure did not break.

TAPAS torsion box demonstrator - detail
  • Overview TAPAS torsion box demonstrator
  • Detail TAPAS torsion box demonstrator