Lessons Learned from the DC-10 Carbon-Epoxy Rudder Program 861675

With the DC-10 carbon-epoxy rudder, the Douglas Aircraft Company achieved one of the greatest percentage weight savings associated with composite structures. Apart from minor damage from lightning strikes, the 15 rudders put into service have experienced virtually trouble-free operation for about a decade. This paper explains why a multirib, postbuckled skin design was used for the DC-10 composite rudder, how it was justified, and how it would have compared with more conventional sandwich design concepts. Special attention is devoted to the reasons why, for such postbuckled designs, it is better to allow the skin to wrinkle and unload itself than to reinforce it and make it resist buckling until some higher load level is attained. With minor changes in the manufacturing technique, this design concept is ideal for the control surfaces on many aircraft. The paper includes suggestions on how to make even better composite control surfaces in the future.


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