NASA Spinoff

Simulation Tools Model Icing for Aircraft Design

Benefits

altAmerican Kestrel’s LEWICE Interface (LEWINT) combines LEWICE with an enhanced user interface, icing analysis tools, and automated plotting. Since 2007, the company has licensed its LEWINT product to 25 customers for applications including developing certified aircraft and analyzing wind turbines for icing issues.

“Within the United States, every airframer uses LEWICE from Glenn, or LEWINT from American Kestrel,” Parkins says. A key to the technology’s ubiquity, he says, is the years of icing data Glenn has accumulated using its various research tools.

“LEWICE is a unique code in that it has one of the world’s most extensive validation sets,” he says, explaining that Glenn has used its icing flight test bed and icing wind tunnel not only to help refine and develop LEWICE but to validate the code’s results. “Glenn has some of the best icing researchers in the world at one of the best icing facilities in the world working on that software, and they have evolved it into a very robust tool.”

To help design and certify an aircraft or icing protection system for flight, manufacturers need to know how ice accumulates on their particular designs. Through using LEWICE or LEWINT in conjunction with tunnel and flight tests, engineers can determine the kinds of ice shapes that form on their designs in varying conditions. How these shapes impact the aircraft’s aerodynamics helps the engineers determine any design alterations needed to ensure safe flight. Parkins estimates that using the technology in this process saves American Kestrel’s customers hundreds of thousands of dollars in costs by reducing tunnel testing and precluding expensive, late stage design changes.

“It’s a tool that helps reduce risk substantially and provides a lot of confidence that you have a design that is going to succeed,” he says.

Glenn continues to evolve LEWICE to address new areas of icing research, including large supercooled droplets and engine icing. As useful a tool as LEWICE has been, Parkins says, its importance will only continue to grow.

“The modern certification process has resulted in aircraft that are safer in icing conditions than anything we’ve ever developed,” he says. “LEWICE has been a key part of that.”