Structural full-scale aerospace testing facilities

The NRC's structural full-scale testing (SFST) facilities serve commercial and military clients with their proof-of-concept demonstration and certification needs, including static, fatigue, durability and damage tolerance tests ranging from entire airframes down to the subsystem, component and material level. The NRC operates several concurrent large tests for our clients, including major original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), within its facility in Ottawa (L×W×H): 25 × 18 × 7 m (80 × 60 × 20 ft). Other test capabilities provided in conjunction with full-scale testing include ballistic testing, environmental testing (temperature and humidity) and fire exposure under loads (performed at NRC's National Fire Test facility in Almonte, Ontario). To meet larger test requirements, the NRC has access to local large aircraft hangars (L×W×H): 40 × 42 × 9 m (130 × 140 × 30 ft) and 49 × 30 × 7 m (160 × 100 × 23 ft).

Our capabilities

The SFST team works with clients to support their testing needs for aeronautical product development and government certification requirements within clients' commitments and time constraints. During ground tests, the SFST team can implement new technologies, particularly in the field of Structural Health Monitoring (SHM), which can then be transitioned to flight tests and fleet operations.

The NRC's SFST competencies throughout the test life cycle include:

1. Test definition and management
  • definition and scoping of client needs
  • development of test plans and procedures
  • performance management, quality management, and project management
2. Rig design
  • sizing and optimization of the test rig and related counterbalance systems
  • selection, sizing and placement of actuators and other load introduction mechanisms
  • specialty environmental chamber design for temperature and humidity control
  • pressurization
  • other environmental effects, as required by the customer
3. Loads spectrum development
  • customer support with baseline spectrum definition
  • manoeuvre/Mission load case development and interpretation
  • interface and actuator loads derivation for replicating flight loads /strains
4. Test article instrumentation
  • installation of and repairs to sensors, including strain gauges, load cells, displacement transducers and accelerometers
  • fibre optics technology and other advanced strain and damage sensing technologies for SHM purposes, enabling monitoring of inaccessible areas
  • strain field characterization by digital image correlation
5. Rig assembly and commissioning
  • test rig assembly
  • test article installation
  • pre-test inspections
  • pre-test strain surveys
6. Fatigue testing
  • test activities ranging from entire airframes, to subsystems and components
  • high-speed testing with complex load spectra using optimization software
  • non-airworthy repairs
  • customized data processing, including trend monitoring and damage monitoring
  • periodic strain surveys
  • non-destructive evaluation ( NDE ) inspections using state-of-the-art techniques
  • risk reduction and downtime minimization using Damage Tolerance Analysis tools
7. Static testing
  • test activities ranging from entire airframes, to subsystems and components, including:
    • design limit load cases
    • ultimate load cases
    • failure load case
    • customized data processing
8. Teardown
  • disassembly and inspection of structure
  • detailed quantitative fractography of damages
9. Documentation
  • consultations and development of test specifications and protocols satisfying customer requirements
  • test reports (including test definition, test plans, interim reports, damage reports and damage dispositions)


  • many hydraulic actuators, load cells and servo valves of capacities ranging from 1.1 to 220 kips (5 to 1000 kN)
  • four multi-channel fatigue and static test control systems
  • over 300 channels of data acquisition
  • hydraulic power supplies up to 530 l/min at 20,000 kPa (140 gpm at 3000 psi)
  • overhead crane capable of lifting 10 tons (22,000 lbf)
  • specialty environmental chambers built to satisfy customer testing needs

Why work with us

As the foremost Canadian authority on the design of complex fatigue testing systems, the NRC has over 60 years' experience in full-scale fatigue and static testing for Canada's Department of National Defence and major companies within the aerospace sector, focussing on safety, quality and service. The NRC's accomplishments in this area were recognised in 2002 when it was awarded the prestigious Von Karman award by the International Council of the Aeronautical Sciences for its outstanding structural fatigue test of the F/A -18 Hornet aircraft. In the recent past, the NRC has developed several innovative testing and monitoring methodologies that are now used worldwide by the aerospace industry, including:

  • full-scale testing technologies, including cross-coupling compensation (C3), now commercialized by MTS in their control system software (PDF) worldwide, allowing faster spectrum fatigue testing using multi-actuator systems
  • innovative fatigue rig design methodologies, including rig mass minimization and test article interfacing, better article access for inspection and higher load fidelity
  • trend monitoring to determine changes in structural response during testing, for early damage detection
  • damage tolerance analysis (>DTA) and risk assessment to reduce requirements for inspections and repairs
  • structural health monitoring (SHM) to monitor the structural integrity of aircraft, enabling condition-based maintenance (CBM) and remaining life assessment based on usage
  • state-of-the-art NDE techniques for inspecting metallic, composite and hybrid structures, including probability of detection (POD) studies
  • NDT reference standards simulating cracking, corrosion or impact

Image gallery

Strain gauge trailing edge flap instrumentation for a full-scale test

Calibration of hinge instrumentation to measure load transfer from flap to wing box in full-scale test

Full-scale test hydraulic actuators, load cells and displacement transducers

Outer wing component full-scale test set up

Image correlation first principal strain measurement on an in-service aircraft component

Quantitative fractography post-test examination of critical crack and nucleation site

CF-188 wing international follow-on structural test program

Full-scale rig design for a helicopter fuselage test

Counter-balance loading system design for full-scale testing

NRC Montreal Road campus in Ottawa

Contact us

Business Development Team
Aerospace Research Centre


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