Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Estimation of probability of failure for damage-tolerant aerospace structures
by Halbert, Keith, Ph.D., Temple University, 2014, 192; 3623167
Abstract (Summary)

The majority of aircraft structures are designed to be damage-tolerant such that safe operation can continue in the presence of minor damage. It is necessary to schedule inspections so that minor damage can be found and repaired. It is generally not possible to perform structural inspections prior to every flight. The scheduling is traditionally accomplished through a deterministic set of methods referred to as Damage Tolerance Analysis (DTA). DTA has proven to produce safe aircraft but does not provide estimates of the probability of failure of future flights or the probability of repair of future inspections. Without these estimates maintenance costs cannot be accurately predicted. Also, estimation of failure probabilities is now a regulatory requirement for some aircraft.

The set of methods concerned with the probabilistic formulation of this problem are collectively referred to as Probabilistic Damage Tolerance Analysis (PDTA). The goal of PDTA is to control the failure probability while holding maintenance costs to a reasonable level. This work focuses specifically on PDTA for fatigue cracking of metallic aircraft structures. The growth of a crack (or cracks) must be modeled using all available data and engineering knowledge. The length of a crack can be assessed only indirectly through evidence such as non-destructive inspection results, failures or lack of failures, and the observed severity of usage of the structure.

The current set of industry PDTA tools are lacking in several ways: they may in some cases yield poor estimates of failure probabilities, they cannot realistically represent the variety of possible failure and maintenance scenarios, and they do not allow for model updates which incorporate observed evidence. A PDTA modeling methodology must be flexible enough to estimate accurately the failure and repair probabilities under a variety of maintenance scenarios, and be capable of incorporating observed evidence as it becomes available.

This dissertation describes and develops new PDTA methodologies that directly address the deficiencies of the currently used tools. The new methods are implemented as a free, publicly licensed and open source R software package that can be downloaded from the Comprehensive R Archive Network. The tools consist of two main components. First, an explicit (and expensive) Monte Carlo approach is presented which simulates the life of an aircraft structural component flight-by-flight. This straightforward MC routine can be used to provide defensible estimates of the failure probabilities for future flights and repair probabilities for future inspections under a variety of failure and maintenance scenarios. This routine is intended to provide baseline estimates against which to compare the results of other, more efficient approaches.

Second, an original approach is described which models the fatigue process and future scheduled inspections as a hidden Markov model. This model is solved using a particle-based approximation and the sequential importance sampling algorithm, which provides an efficient solution to the PDTA problem. Sequential importance sampling is an extension of importance sampling to a Markov process, allowing for efficient Bayesian updating of model parameters. This model updating capability, the benefit of which is demonstrated, is lacking in other PDTA approaches. The results of this approach are shown to agree with the results of the explicit Monte Carlo routine for a number of PDTA problems.

Extensions to the typical PDTA problem, which cannot be solved using currently available tools, are presented and solved in this work. These extensions include incorporating observed evidence (such as non-destructive inspection results), more realistic treatment of possible future repairs, and the modeling of failure involving more than one crack (the so-called continuing damage problem).

The described hidden Markov model / sequential importance sampling approach to PDTA has the potential to improve aerospace structural safety and reduce maintenance costs by providing a more accurate assessment of the risk of failure and the likelihood of repairs throughout the life of an aircraft.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Heiberger, Richard M.
Commitee: Millwater, Harry R., Murphy, Frederic H., Sobel, Marcus J.
School: Temple University
Department: Statistics
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-B 75/09(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Statistics, Aerospace engineering
Keywords: Damage tolerance, Fatigue, Hidden markov model, Particle filter, Sequential importance sampling
Publication Number: 3623167
ISBN: 9781303954849
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