Monoplanes are very efficient and have the lowest drag of any wing configuration. This makes monoplanes the most common form for a fixed-wing aircraft.
The wings of monoplanes are commonly made from carbon fibre to allow engineers to create lighter and stronger planes. Although carbon fibre is a strong material, areas exposed to small impacts, such as ice (hail) start to chip and damage. This is very common on the leading edge of the wing.
When carbon fibre is damaged, it must be either repaired or replaced. Thousands of these types of repairs are performed every year in the aircraft world and have an excellent record. But what if these repairs weren’t needed as often? What if the wing could be better protected from small impact damage?
Why not a LINE-X coating? While LINE-X bedliner material is extremely durable and is already used to mitigate chip damage on many bespoke 4x4s, it is not the best solution for monoplane wings. The thickness of the LINE-X bedliner coating and the rough texture would lower the performance of the plane; increasing drag and affecting performance.
Still, a protective coating is needed to mitigate the impacts of potential ice striking the edge of the wing. The coating must be durable, lightweight, and thin to prevent unwanted drag on the plane.
Meet LINE-X ULTRA…
Luckily, LINE-X has a portfolio of different coating formulations. Meet LINE-X ULTRA: a thin-film, aliphatic polyurea that is long-lasting and UV stable. ULTRA has similar durability and elasticity to LINE-X bedliner material but can be sprayed thinner and smoother. The thin-build application allows ULTRA to protect areas of low tolerance, like the exterior of offroad 4x4s where it is currently being tested. LINE-X ULTRA also outperformed powder coat and industrial paint in impact tests, proving it offers superior impact and abrasion resistance.
LINE-X Central Queensland, Australia utilised LINE-X ULTRA to protect the leading edge of a monoplane wing with impressive results!
Since the ULTRA coating was applied to the wing, and at the time this article was posted, the plane has accumulated 50 hours of flying time. The plane flew through storms and hail with no signs of damage to the coating. The fine texture of the ULTRA coating even had a positive impact on the performance of the plane – increasing flight speed by 4 knots!
To achieve the optimal performance from the coating, LINE-X Central Queensland worked closely with the monoplane owner to calculate the area of application to achieve optimal performance. When it comes to aviation, the slightest tweak and modification can severely impact the speed performance and energy efficiency.
Once the owner calculated the optimal surface area and marked it on the wing, the LINE-X applicators were able to begin the application process. The rest of the plane was masked, and a special wire tape was applied to the areas where the coating would finish to ensure a clean edge. Applicators thoroughly cleaned the area, removed all dirt and contaminants, then created a surface profile by etching the area with 180grit sandpaper using a flat rubbing block, instead of power tools, as to not generate any heat on the carbon fibre wings. A final clean and degrease was performed and a fast cure primer by LINE-X was applied to the surface. Once the primer had dried, the applicators applied ULTRA in two-passes, creating a thickness of 0.4-0.5mm. A slight texture was then added by using a spray technique.
The final coating is a thin, durable coating with a very fine textured finish. The owner is delighted with the application, especially after inspecting the coating following 50 hours of flying time. The ULTRA coating by LINE-X has proven to be a lightweight, high-performing impact resistant barrier for carbon fibre, suitable for aviation applications.
LINE-X strongly recommends involving an aeronautical engineer to double check potential modifications to an aircraft or another aviation project. When applied correctly, LINE-X ULTRA is a viable solution to protect the leading edge of a wing that will not impact air flow and still operate efficiently.
“There is not one mark on the leading edge and I have not lost any performance. It is far superior to the leading edge tape I have been using. Thank you!”