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FAA uses HPC to make sure planes stay in the air

TACC LogoThe staff and resources at TACC were recently part of an effort to add HPC-enabled calculations to the FAA’s operational safety workflow. Here is the outline of the full story which can be found on TACC’s website (complete with cool pics)

…if a crack is detected in an aircraft structure, does the problem affect only one plane, or is the failure systemic to the aircraft model or part? With lives and livelihoods on the line, officials must decide whether to institute a new inspection regime, keep the status quo, or ground the fleet.

Until recently, the FAA had little to go on when making this decision for small airplanes or the general aviation fleet. As a result, Harry Millwater, associate professor of mechanical engineering at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), working with post-doctoral researcher Gulshan Singh, and graduate student Juan Ocampo, developed a state-of-the-art structural integrity software, called SMART (SMall Aircraft Risk Technology), that in a matter of minutes can run thousands of simulations on a given part of a plane and provide a detailed report of the likelihood of a crack initiating in terms of both “hours and flights to failure”.

The invididual simulations aren’t long, but the FCC wanted to create an ensemble analysis that looks at a range of probable values for the critical variables in each situation. This can mean tens of thousands of runs that need to be completed rapidly in response to a detected failure in a flight system.

For that reason, Millwater approached TACC with the goal of “parallelizing” their code—making it capable of running simultaneously on multiple processing cores—and ultimately speeding up its performance so it could become a valuable, real-world tool.

…Working with Schulz, Millwater was able to make his code run 188 times faster by instituting a new MPI (Message Passing Interface) version that can efficiently distribute the calculations onto 256 processors (or the equivalent of more than 100 PCs).

“Something that took a couple of hours for analysis now took 42 seconds. You can’t beat that,” said Millwater.

The FAA has been using early versions of the code in exercises since last summer, and will take delivery of the final code at the end of this month when it will enter the FAA’s operational workflow.

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  1. […] “How HPC saves your worthless hide” type of story – our pals at InsideHPC publicized a collaboration between the Federal Aviation Administration and the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) that […]

  2. […] “How HPC saves your worthless hide” type of story – our pals at InsideHPC publicized a collaboration between the Federal Aviation Administration and the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) that […]

  3. […] another “How HPC saves your worthless hide” type of story – our pals at InsideHPC publicized a collaboration between the Federal Aviation Administration and the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) that […]

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