T-38N Autopilot


Project:
Develop the mechanical design for the T-38N autopilot system

Customer:
American Systems Corporation

Services Performed:
PEI provided mechanical design, structural analysis, fabrication vendor management, and installation support for the T-38N autopilot system

Structural Analysis:

  • Reverse engineering to determine existing forces on the flight control system due to pilot input
  • Freebody analysis of right-hand roll quadrant to determine maximum stresses and fatigue life of safety-critical replacement shaft
  • Classical hand calculations on all actuator mounting hardware and torque transfer linkages and arms
  • Finite Element Analysis (FEA) on fail-safe bracket and rear cockpit pedestal using FAR Part 25 load factors
  • Non-linear FEA on cockpit floor reinforcement, including deflection correlation with cabin pressure test
  • FMEA (Failure Modes and Effects Analysis)

Engineering Design:

  • Conducted site visits to gather information and inspect the T-38N
  • Generated 3D CAD models from original aircraft drawings
  • Designed mechanical hardware for the autopilot system – to mount the actuators, transmit actuator torque to the flight control systems, and provide fail-safe provisions
  • Designed reinforcements necessary to prevent loading of the autopilot and flight control hardware under maximum cabin pressure conditions
  • Conducted Preliminary and Critical Design Reviews (PDR, CDR)
  • Created component, assembly, and installation drawings
  • Vendor management during fabrication, including hardware inspections, to ensure that requirements were met
  • Supported prototype and kit-proof installations; updated design accordingly for simplification, improved functionality, and ease of installation for the remaining fleet