A monolithic composite panel made from carbon fiber, the bulkhead is a rigorous structure that is strengthened through the use of stiffeners which are integrated onto the front surface. To ensure that the bulkhead is even more secure, the entire rim is attached to the fuselage with 12 titanium rim angles. With such an intensive design, one may wonder why a rear pressure bulkhead that is this rigorous is even needed in the first place. In this blog, we will further discuss the design and purpose of the rear pressure bulkhead, allowing you to have a better understanding of its importance.
As aircraft advanced in terms of design and reached higher elevations, more design choices had to be made to ensure the safety of structures and passengers as a result of the low pressure and oxygen conditions at such heights. Commercial aircraft are generally sealed and pressurized to present crew members and passengers with a safe and comfortable environment. While this is highly beneficial for those riding in the aircraft, the fact that there is a high pressure environment within the fuselage and a low pressure environment outside creates force and strain on the structure. Without ample integrity, the aircraft would risk bursting as a result of the higher internal pressure. With the use of a rear pressure bulkhead, a pressure seal can be ensured while an aircraft traverses the tropopause zone for safety and integrity.
In some instances, the bulkhead may feature a curved shape, and while this lowers the amount of materials needed for construction, it will reduce overall available space. Bulkheads may also take advantage of international cavities that are implemented within the rear bulkhead to ensure more space for use. Depending on the particular needs of a given aircraft, various materials and designs may be used, and the entire bulkhead can be wholly replaced as needed.
In the early 2000s, many innovations were made to the rear pressure bulkhead to improve its overall performance. For example, Airbus Group developed the largest manufactured resin film infusion structure at the time, allowing the A380 airliner to benefit from an aft pressure bulkhead that was lower in cost and weight, guarded against corrosion, easier to seal, and much more. Later, in the 2010s, German aerospace supplier Premium AEROTEC made the next breakthrough with their thermoplastic-based bulkhead that reduced processing time, assembly time, and weight even more than other carbon composite options.
As bulkheads have failed in the past, many aviation governing bodies have mandated inspections of the structure to ensure safety. There are a variety of ways in which inspections can be carried out, those being used both during the design stage and while the aircraft is in regular use. With regular inspection, maintenance, and repair, the integrity of bulkheads can be upheld to better guarantee the safety of flight operations for the benefit of all on board.
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