Product Spotlight: What is Aircraft Cable?
Obviously cables are used in an aircraft, right? Easy—Done!
Well, yes, that’s technically correct…But wait, there’s more!
You would assume aircraft cable is a type of wire rope used throughout an aircraft, for everything from adjustable seat back controls to controlling the movement of the wing flaps and landing gear on planes with analog flight systems. These cables are essentially specialized high strength wire rope, made to withstand the special environmental circumstances found on an aircraft such as harsh temperatures and moisture. Aircraft cable is also known as galvanized wire rope, and is often made from carbon steel and is drawn galvanized. Galvanizing protects the cable from corrosion for a period of time, but will discolor to a white or dull appearance—Prolonged exposure to the elements will eventually cause corrosion, which is why it’s always important to keep your aircraft cable up to date with inspections.
So, what is wire rope?
A piece of wire rope has three main components. Individual wires that make up each strand, the strand itself and finally, the core it’s built around. The core is typically composed of fibre core (FC) or steel wire core, called independent wire rope core (IWRC). The steel core increases strength by 7% and the weight by 10%, which provides more support to the outer strands than fibre cores. Steel cores resist crushing and are more resistant to heat.
The design factor of wire rope tells you the ratio between minimum breaking load of the rope and the working load limit (WLL).
Manufactures, like Hercules SLR, stock aircraft cable to commercial and military specifications in stainless steel, galvanized carbon steel, and a variety of other alloys. If you’re curious, the most common aircraft cable diameters are 1/16 through 5/32 with 7×7 or 7×19 construction. Normal breaking strength varies—Here at Hercules SLR we carry aircraft cable from a normal breaking strength of 480lbs to 14,400lbs.
However, aircraft cable isn’t just used on airplanes! It’s typically used in more strenuous applications because of its ability to withstand harsh temperatures and corrosion, but can serve effective in a variety of personal, commercial, industrial and military purposes.
Some examples of uses for aircraft cable NOT found within an aircraft, are:
- Securing Cargo: Aircraft cable can be used to tie down heavy cargo on ships. Aircraft cable can be particularly useful because as mentioned above, it is resistant to extreme temperatures and moisture.
- Boats and Docking: Aircraft cable is used for several applications in boats and docking like securing boats, hoisting them out of the water, sailboat rigging and on fishing boats.
- Pulleys and Winches: The strength of aircraft cable makes it the perfect choice for lifting and hoisting.
- Stage Rigging: Once again because of it’s strength and durability it is often the cable of choice for the rigging that opens, closes, and lifts heavy curtains, moves backdrops, raises and lowers lighting and so on.
- Zip Lines: Both galvanized and stainless steel are used for zip lines, depending on the weather conditions in the location of the zip line.
- Garage Doors: Aircraft cable can be found in garage door raising/lowering mechanisms.
- Exercise Equipment: Aircraft cable is often used in a variety of exercise equipment, most commonly in weight machines.
Inspecting Aircraft Cable
Aircraft cables, both on and off airplanes, often live in fairly harsh environments—It’s often the wire rope of choice in those circumstances. As well, on some aircraft’s, the cable remains in one static position around pulley bends for extended periods of time. You should always ensure ALL of your rigging gear is inspected on it’s recommended timeline—But it’s especially important when you know the equipment is being exposed to harsh environments.
At every inspection, all control cables must be inspected for broken wires strands—This includes sections of the cable that may be hidden behind or within part of the aircraft structure. One of the easiest ways to do this is to run a cotton cloth over the length of the wire, checking for any places where the material get’s snagged. Any cable that has a single broken wire strand located around critical fatigue areas (where the cable runs around a pulley, sleeve or through a fair-lead; or any section where the cable is flexed, rubbed, or worked) must be replaced. Generally, SOME broken wires in non-critical areas are okay, but always consult your service/maintenance manual.
You’ll also want to look out for any flat spots, any areas where the cable twist is unraveling, or any other condition resulting in the cable being distorted—If any of these things are present, you must replace the cable.
It is recommended to remove the cable from critical areas and flex them to ensure that all cables on the inside of the wire rope haven’t worn down due to environmental deterioration, distortion or fatigue. This is definitely recommended if you haven’t been keeping up with regular inspections. There is a chance that the cable could look completely sound from the outside, but as soon as you remove it from the position it has remained in for so long, it will completely fail.
With a full service, one-stop-shop for rigging companies with all the service, inspections and repairs that any company would need, we can top the rest! Our goal is to make it look like you don’t need us! From advice, help with design, problem solutions, through to seamless procurement and excellent customer service, we are here to support your business and move it forward—Whatever it is, we can help.