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This individual Capstone project examined and evaluated current industry methods of testing, certification, and maintenance of advanced composite materials for the construction of commercial transport aircraft and the FAA regulations governing their use. The project critically compared and contrasted existing FAA standards and regulations governing the testing, certification, and maintenance of advanced composites for commercial transport aircraft structural applications with current industry practices to determine whether there were any areas of conflict between the two in order to accept or reject that current testing, certification, and maintenance procedures for advanced composites used in primary and secondary commercial transport aircraft structures are standardized throughout the aerospace industry and sufficiently capable of detecting damage or component failure. This was accomplished by performing a qualitative and quantitative analysis utilizing meta-analysis to contrast and compare past and current aerospace composite materials studies with non-destructive inspection (NDI) testing and structural health monitoring (SHM) data to determine statistical significance that supported or refuted the hypothesis of comprehensive process improvement throughout the industry. The results of the analysis showed that the hypothesis was accepted for testing and certification, but overwhelmingly rejected for current maintenance and repair. In addition, industry concerns were examined to determine whether limitations exist that would preclude the future use of advanced composites in structural applications based on current FAA standards and regulations. This project determined how current industry practices and FAA methodologies for the testing, certification, and maintenance of advanced composites in commercial transport aircraft structural applications may need to be modified in order to capture and address future industry use.

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ASCI 691 Graduate Capstone Project Submitted to the Worldwide Campus in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Aeronautical Science May 2013