In Airplanes, Lighter is not Always Better

There’s a saying in the aircraft manufacturing industry: “Lighter is better.” After all, with lighter parts, comes huge savings for the airlines that operate the aircraft. It all comes down to fuel efficiency after all. According to a press release in 2012 by the IATA, fuel accounted for about 1/3 of the airline industries operating costs. If you’re repairing or renovating an airplane, it makes sense that you try to find places where you can trim weight.

This means that more parts are being made of lighter metals with a high strength to weight ratio. Aluminum is used to make aircraft skins, bulkheads and even rivets. Airlines have used thinner metals in many places to reduce weight. Thinner seats and drink carts have helped provide drastic deductions in an airplane’s gross weight. Magnesium alloys have been used to form whole wing panels, giving an 18 percent weight reduction from even standard aluminum panels. While you might not be able to do full wing panel renovation nor need a lighter drink cart, you can benefit from lighter materials in other places.

However, there are locations on an airplane where steel should still be used. This includes parts that are subjected to extreme stress, such as landing gear. There are many types of steel that are used in various parts, and sorting through all the variations can be trying. Finding a reliable source of parts, such as Inventory Locator Service is essential if you’re trying to locate a specific part for your airplane.

When renovating or repairing your aircraft, you have to be sure that any changes you make will pass a valid inspection. That means it is important that the parts you get come from reputable locations and dealers. You also want to deal with a company that understands your needs and how to provide you with a wide selection of parts. Different parts can be made in a variety of methods out of a variety of different types of steel.

Steel comes in multiple varieties and blends, all with their own properties and strengths. At its heart, steel is formed from iron and alloyed with other elements. The primary element is carbon, but other elements have begun to be used. One new steel alloy is made from molybdenum and chromium. The molybdenum enhances the ultimate strength of the steel, but it also preserves the ductility and workability of the alloy. In modern aircraft, molybdenum steel has replaced carbon steel where landing gear is concerned.

Molybdenum steel is renowned for its adaptability for welding by either electric or gas methods. Additionally, when heat treated properly, the steel hardens deeply, becoming well adapted for use in high temperature areas. Despite this hardening, this type of steel is still easily machined and formed. Heat treated molybdenum steel is roughly four times as strong as a comparable piece of carbon steel, making it exceptionally suited for high stress applications such as landing struts.

Despite the need for airplanes to reduce weight to increase fuel efficiency, steel is still needed for many applications. When seeking a source for your replacement parts, whether it’s for one plane or a fleet, you need a broker who is well versed in the properties of steels and has the contacts necessary to get the parts needed at reasonable prices. This will ensure that your airplane will be safe and you won’t spend more than is needed for your renovations.

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