Structural testing of aircraft components is an essential part in the development of aircraft. To limit the number of tests and consequently cost, reliable Finite Element (FE) models to predict the test results are extremely important. For a test program on Vertical Tail Planes (VTP) ALE has developed a FE model of the VTP and the test rig.

In the FE model the complex composite layup, which the VTP is made of, is included, properly accounting for the right material directions and stacking. Over 1000 strain gauge channels and dozens of displacement transducers were used in the test to record the structural response of the VTP. All measurements are also incorporated in the FE model, allowing for easy comparison of results. Furthermore, appropriate representation of the test rig in the model is essential to produce reliable results. Nonlinear analyses are performed to capture buckling effects and contact between the many structural components.

The model has been successfully used to predict the response of the test. With the predictions, undesirable damage can be avoided and acceptable load levels for the different load cases can be defined. In the end the FE model has been validated by the tests and is now used to analyse the behaviour of VTPs when subjected to a variety of load cases and structural modifications.