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Air Force, NIAR to study operational impacts on B-1B structure

Wichita State University’s National Institute for Aviation Research will dismantle the B-1B 86-0101 fuselage, remove all the paint and primer, and perform high fidelity inspections looking for cracks and corrosion. (Courtesy photo)

Wichita State University’s National Institute for Aviation Research will dismantle the B-1B 86-0101 fuselage, remove all the paint and primer, and perform high fidelity inspections looking for cracks and corrosion. (Courtesy photo)

Wichita State University’s National Institute for Aviation Research will dismantle the B-1B 86-0101 fuselage, remove all the paint and primer, and perform high fidelity inspections looking for cracks and corrosion. (Courtesy photo)

Wichita State University’s National Institute for Aviation Research will dismantle the B-1B 86-0101 fuselage, remove all the paint and primer, and perform high fidelity inspections looking for cracks and corrosion. (Courtesy photo)

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla., -- The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center's B-1 Division is sponsoring a research project with Wichita State University’s National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) to study the effects of flight operations on aircraft structures. 

The NIAR team will dismantle the B-1B 86-0101 fuselage, remove all the paint and primer, and perform high fidelity inspections looking for cracks and corrosion on the entire fuselage, including areas that have been inaccessible since manufacturing in the mid-1980s.

To augment the ongoing NIAR B-1 Digital Twin Program, components that were not delivered with the Digital Twin fuselage will be scanned and digitized to complete the virtual fuselage model. To meet these objectives, NIAR will transport the 86-0101 fuselage from Tinker Air Force Base to their facility north of Wichita, Kansas. 

Manufactured in 1986, tail #86-0101 was divested from service April 19, 2021 landing for the final time at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City.  Now after a six week process to remove wings, horizontal and vertical stabilizers, and landing gear, the 130’ long, 29’ wide, and 16’ tall fuselage will travel the 165 miles on a truck designed specifically for this large transport.  In addition, NIAR will transport a wing, nacelle, flaps, slats, spoilers, radomes, and other components of interest to the B-1 Division. 
86-0101 was specifically selected for this research program as it is one of the highest time airframes recently divested from the fleet.  A complete teardown and comprehensive inspection program will provide the B-1 Division a unique understanding of the current condition of the aging fleet.  The inspection results will allow the B-1 Division to proactively inspect the fleet, design repairs in advance of the fleet need, and more comprehensively manage the fleet of aging bombers.

“NIAR is excited to continue to support the B-1 Division’s mission of keeping the aging bombers operating for as long as the Air Force requires,” said Dr. Melinda Laubach-Hock, NIAR B-1 Program Manager and Director of Sustainment.  “Advancements towards proactively managing the fleet with inspections, repairs, and maintenance will directly improve mission readiness on this key military asset.”

“This is another great opportunity to work with NIAR to keep the B-1 fleet safe,” said Lt. Col. Joseph Lay, B-1 Systems Engineering Branch Chief.  “Conducting a teardown and inspection of a high flier will provide invaluable data on the health of the fleet, provide insight into future repairs and allow us to plan ahead.  Further, aircraft 101 supports the B-1’s Digital Engineering Transformation.

 “Wichita State’s partnership with the B-1 Division supports sustainment efforts for legacy weapon systems, like the B-1, that will immediately impact the preparedness of the warfighter.  In addition, these programs provide applied learning opportunities for Wichita State graduate and undergraduate students, which, in turn, allows the military to grow its future workforce,” said Dr. John Tomblin, Senior Vice President for Industry and Defense at Wichita State University.