Aircraft: Pushing the Limits of Engineering

EE-002-aircraft pushing the limits of engineering (1)

Posted on 2017/05/01 | Cliff | Technology

According to a 2013 Airbus Global Market Forecast, aircraft fleets have been predicted to double by 2032, while market forces are driving airplane performance to another level. There are growing pressures on designers and manufacturers to minimize weight, maximize fuel-efficiency, and reduce costs — but what happens to reliability and safety? A multitude of components are involved in this race, and seals have an important place amongst them.

Disaster Can Start With Just One Part

Sometimes the failure of a small component can start a sequence of events ending in catastrophic failure — like the Qantas flight taking off from Singapore in 2010. A small stub pipe carrying lubricating oil to a bearing had been machined with unequal thickness, leaving it misaligned and fragile. When it broke, it leaked oil, which caught fire and softened the spinning turbine blades. As a result, the turbine blades disintegrated and tore the engine apart. Shrapnel then punched holes in the wing, damaging spars and severing a main fuel line. Fortunately, the pilots managed to turn the plane around and land safely, but it could have been a disastrous situation.

Ever-Growing Performance Demands

Aviation consultant and former National Transportation Safety Board member John Goglia claims that “we are pushing the technology faster than at any time in the past.” The complexity of new aircraft is ever-growing. Elaborate electronics, fine trim systems, hydraulic-assisted control surfaces and improved engine mechanics all require precise components in order to function. Even an old Boeing 737 would have had an extensive list of upgrades and part replacements in its life. The industry now requires ever-extended lifespans and longer maintenance intervals for components such as flap actuators.

The Role That Seals Play

Aircraft require a plethora of seals to contain pressurized fluids, exclude contaminants, retain lubricants and keep the body airtight. High-quality materials are essential to deliver these functions reliably. Airframe seals, o-rings and molded parts are made of high-spec elastomers (rubber). Hydraulic systems have a crucial role in aircraft — for controls, brakes, suspension, flap actuators and landing gear, which undergoes under extreme stress during take-off and landing. Durable Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) seals are used for these to ensure dependable operation.

Ultra-Reliability

As the aerospace industry rapidly develops, it needs quality suppliers to support it. A new aircraft usually takes about five years to develop, with a myriad of components to be engineered. Increasingly advanced solutions are necessary — under-girded by the most stringent quality regime of all industries. Top-quality parts maintain efficient and safe operation. Precision and accuracy are of the utmost importance, with machining tolerances getting tighter and tighter. Eclipse has in-depth experience with the rigorous demands of the aerospace industry, and offers a range of reliable top-quality seals for aircraft and ground-based aviation systems. The governing AS9100 quality standard has extensive requirements for product risk, documentation and product traceability. In the unlikely event of a sealing problem, manufacturing can be traced back to the exact second of production, the machine and operator. Find top-quality seals for aircraft and ground-based aviation systems >