By donating a B-1B Lancer, USAF's 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.
Recently, the NIAR team dismantled B-1B Lancer 86-0101 named Watchman. In the future, 86-0101's fuselage, removed from all the paint and primer, will be used to 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 Programme, components that were not delivered with the Digital Twin fuselage will be scanned and digitized to complete a virtual fuselage model. To meet these objectives, NIAR has transported 86-0101's fuselage from Tinker AFB (OK) to their facility north of Wichita, Kansas.
Manufactured in 1986, 86-0101 was divested from service on 19 April 2021 landing for the final time at Tinker near Oklahoma City. After a six week process to remove wings, horizontal and vertical stabilizers, and landing gear, the 130’ long, 29’ wide, and 16’ tall fuselage has travelled the 165 miles on a truck designed specifically for this large transport. In addition, NIAR has transported 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 programme as it is one of the highest time airframes recently divested from the fleet. A complete teardown and comprehensive inspection programme 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.
It was stated that by conducting a teardown and inspection of a 'High Flyer', it will provide invaluable data on the health of USAF's current B-1B fleet and provide insight into future repairs and allow to plan ahead.
Photos by Redhome Aviation