By Bill Kisliuk

UCLA mechanical and aerospace engineering students will have the unusual opportunity to analyze the composition, structure, thermal and other properties of a piece of cutting-edge commercial aircraft equipment, thanks to a donation from Airbus Americas.

The part, a 28-foot-long elevator from an Airbus A330, was delivered to the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science on Dec. 8. The elevator, which is used for flight control on the aircraft’s tail, is valued at $750,000.

“This gift will play an important role in the education and research of our undergraduate and graduate students,” said T.C. Tsao, chair of mechanical and aerospace engineering at UCLA Engineering. “Having access to materials that are used for commercial purposes today will help us in our mission to develop new and better technologies in the future.”

Barry Eccleston, president and CEO of Airbus Americas, said the gift is intended to help prepare the next generation of aviation and aerospace engineers. “For Airbus, our partnership with academic institutions in Southern California is an investment in our future and will help to foster a thriving aerospace workforce in the region,” he said. “This donation will allow engineering students to experience the new materials used in aerospace and better prepare them to become the future innovators of the aviation industry.”

Mechanical and aerospace engineering department chair T.C. Tsao and distinguished professor Ajit Mal inspect an Airbus A330 elevator donated to the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science on Dec. 8, 2014

Mechanical and aerospace engineering department chair T.C. Tsao and distinguished professor Ajit Mal inspect an Airbus A330 elevator donated to the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science on Dec. 8, 2014

The equipment will be housed at UCLA’s Materials Degradation Characterization Laboratory, which is supervised by Ajit Mal, distinguished professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering.

“This material and this structure are very advanced,” Mal said. “It is so important to have a real piece of aircraft in the lab so students can have access to new and advanced materials and structures.”

Mal’s long-term research goal is to develop sensors that can be embedded in composite materials to communicate when a vital component of a structure is damaged by impact with a foreign object.

“Our lab is seeking to develop techniques that would alert users when a mechanical system is compromised, just as your brain knows immediately when you have cut your finger — and whether you need to put a bandage on it or to go to the ER,” Mal said.

Airbus Americas spends more than $14 billion annually on manufacturing in the U.S., including more than $1 billion in the Southern California region.

“This donation from Airbus Americas to UCLA is an excellent example of business working hand in hand with academia to both educate students and help to build our future workforce,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. “Airbus Americas’ contribution to UCLA will help to attract, retain and grow valuable jobs in aerospace and fuel the local economy.”


Image: UCLA Engineering undergraduates and graduate students will study the advanced materials inside the 28-foot-long part, which school staff carried into the lab yesterday.