The Most Common Aircraft Structure Materials

The Most Common Aircraft Structure Materials

DALLAS — To ensure the safe, efficient, and economical operation of commercial aircraft during all phases of flight, care is taken to choose the right structural materials during the design, repair, and maintenance of aircraft and their components.

These materials should have the following desirable characteristics: the capacity to resist abrasion and penetration (hardness), the ability to resist deformation (strength), the ability to be bent or twisted without breaking (ductility), the ability to return to its original size and shape after a load is removed (elasticity), the ability to conduct heat or electricity (conductivity), the strength-to-weight ratio, and fatigue resistance.

Different parts of the aircraft must be manufactured and maintained with specific qualities and properties of structural materials because of the amount of load, stress, exposure to various environmental factors like extreme heat and fire, the purpose of the aircraft (subsonic or supersonic), reliability, and many other factors.

Steel alloys, aluminum alloys, composite materials, plastics, rubber, fabrics, and wood are some examples of these materials. The main uses for the material in an aircraft are decided by its properties as follows:

The A380 structure is made up of 61% aluminum alloys, 22% composites, 10% titanium and steel, and 3% fiber metal laminate. Photo: Johann Heske/Airways

1. Chromium Steel

Chromium Steel is a metal alloy made of iron, carbon, and chromium. It possesses excellent levels of hardness, strength, and corrosion resistance. This alloy, together with nickel, is used to make propeller reduction gears because it provides resistance to corrosion and fatigue.

Catalyst Engine by GE Aviation used to power Beechcraft Denali. Photo: GE

2. Chrome Nickel

Other names for chrome-nickel include stainless steel and corrosion-resistant alloy steel. Because it contains 18% chromium and 8% nickel, the chrome-nickel steel that is most commonly used to make airplane parts is known as “18-8 steel.”

The desired qualities of this alloy allow it to be rolled, drawn, bent, or molded into any shape, thereby making it suitable for aviation springs, tie rods, and control cables.

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Featured image: Photo: Michael Rodeback/Airways

Maximillian Philberth is an electronics scientist and a licensed Flight Operations Officer with studies in cyber security policies for aviation and internet infrastructure. Max's interests in commercial aviation include flight dispatch, flying, and maintenance; plus cyber security, 5G, and aviation safety. Based in Tanzania.

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