Hydraulic Systems, Cable Systems, and Fly-by-Wire Systems in Aircraft

Posted on June 2, 2023 James Hinds Aircraft

To control an aircraft's various systems and functions, different technologies have been employed to manage these larger-than-life vessels. Since the advent of aircraft control systems, maneuvering an aircraft has never been easier. In fact, aircraft control systems play a crucial role in ensuring the safe and efficient operation of airplanes. To better understand how they work, we will explore and compare three common types used in aircraft: hydraulic systems, cable systems, and fly-by-wire systems.

Hydraulic Systems

Hydraulic systems rely on hydraulic fluid, typically oil, to transmit force from one component to another. They are known for offering several advantages, including high power density, precise control, and the ability to operate under high pressures. As a result of such capabilities, they are commonly used in larger aircraft for flight control surfaces, landing gear operation, and braking systems.

Of all the advantages, their corrosion resistance is the most beneficial. This is because hydraulic fluids are specifically formulated to resist corrosion, ensuring the longevity and reliability of the overall system. As such, hydraulic systems can generate high forces, making them suitable for managing large control surfaces and heavy aircraft components.

Cable Systems

Also known as mechanical control systems, cable systems use cables and pulleys to transmit mechanical forces from the cockpit controls to the aircraft's control surfaces. Although they are widely used in various aircraft, they are typically found on smaller general aviation airplanes. Their continued popularity relies on their simplicity, reliability, and ease of maintenance.

In cable systems, corrosion resistance is achieved through the use of stainless steel cables and galvanized fittings. To ensure proper functionality, regular inspections and ample lubrication of the cables are paramount. Inspection tools, such as optical micrometers, depth gauges, borescopes, and fiber optics, can be used to assess the condition of cables, identify wear or damage, and prevent potential failures.

Fly-by-Wire (FBW) Systems

Fly-by-wire is a modern control system that has replaced the conventional mechanical linkage between the cockpit controls and the control surfaces with an electronic interface. In fly-by-wire systems, the pilot's inputs are converted into electrical signals, which are then transmitted to the aircraft's control surfaces. Due to the compact and lightweight nature of electronics, fly-by-wire systems offer several advantages, including weight reduction, increased maneuverability, and enhanced safety features. More importantly, the use of advanced electronic components and sensors ensures precise control and feedback.

To protect electrical connections and prevent moisture ingress, gaskets and sealants are employed. Meanwhile, fuel cell sumps can be used to drain any accumulated fluid. In the case of fly-by-wire systems, regular maintenance and inspections are essential to ensure the integrity of the electrical components and wiring. That said, specialized diagnostic tools and software are used to monitor system performance, detect faults, and facilitate troubleshooting.

Wrapping Up

In conclusion, the choice of control system in an aircraft depends on various factors, including the size and type of the aircraft, the desired level of control and maneuverability, and the technological advancements available. However, understanding the characteristics and maintenance requirements of each system can help you narrow down your needs, ensuring the safety and efficiency of your numerous operations.

ASAP AM Spares is a leading distributor of high-quality aircraft control system parts and other top-notch aviation products, all of which have been sourced from trusted manufacturers on our Approved Vendor List (AVL). To get started on the procurement process for any featured listing, we invite you to fill out and submit an RFQ form through our website, or contact a team member via phone or email at your earliest convenience! 

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