The FAA has taken the decision to leverage additional requirements on the forthcoming Boeing 777X aircraft. Due to its composite wing structure, which is also its fuel tank, Boeing must demonstrate that the tanks can withstand debris from tires impacting on the surface.
Fuel-tank surfaces of typical transport airplanes have thick aluminum construction in the tire-debris impact areas that is tolerant to tire debris larger than that defined in … these special conditions. Consideration of leaks caused by larger tire fragments is needed to ensure that an adequate level of safety is provided where composite material is used.”
The special conditions means Boeing will need to prove airworthiness through either testing or analysis before the plane can be certified. They have been given a deadline of July 8th for this.
According to the FAA notification, the impact to any fuel tank or fuel system component within 30 degrees of either side of the wheel planes must not result in penetration, deformation or rupture (via pressure waves). It must also be shown that such an impact will not cause a leak of any sort.
Previously, the FAA had set 10 special conditions for certification of airworthiness in relation to the 777X folding wingtips, as well as conditions relating to fire survivability and the electronic flight control system.
The requirements issued by the FAA are exactly the same as the special conditions implemented for the Boeing 787 when it was in development in 2007. As the largest aircraft with composite wings, Boeing had to not only prove resilience to impact from debris, but also that the fuel tanks could withstand pressure waves.
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