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Principles of Aircraft Construction

• Major factors influencing aircraft construction
– Loads
– Materials
• Aircraft structure development
p made ppossible by
the stressed skin construction
• Load transfer principles are important in
structural construction
• Connections are also key elements in

Principles of Aircraft Construction

Loads on Structural Components

When do they act
• Ground Loads – during transportation on the
– Taxiing
– Landing
– Towing
– Hoisting
• Air Loads – during flight
– Steadyy flight
– Manoeuvers
– Gusts
Principles of Aircraft Construction

Air Loads on Structural Components

How they act
• Surface forces – act on the surface of
– Aerodynamic pressure
– Hydrostatic pressure
• Body forces – act over volume of structure
– Gravitation effects
– Inertial effects
Principles of Aircraft Construction

Action of Air Loads

• All air
i lloads
d are th
the resultant
lt t off pressure
distribution over surface of the skin during
– Steady flight
– Manoeuvre
– Gust conditions
• Air loads cause
– Direct loads
– Bending,
Bending shear,
shear torsion on parts
– Local normal loads on the skin
Principles of Aircraft Construction

Major Parts of Aircraft

• Wing
– Provide lift
• Fuselage
– Contains
C t i crew & payloadl d ((passengers, cargo,
fuel, weapons etc.)
• Tail (horizontal & vertical)
– Major contributor of directional control
• Ailerons, elevators, rudder
– Enable maneuvre and stability
Principles of Aircraft Construction

Major Parts of Aircraft

Principles of Aircraft Construction

Frame based structures

• Essential load to be carried by frames
• Wires stretched corner to corner supports
frame from collapsing
• Two
T major
j features
f t
– Two wings
g one above the other will reduce
– Frame could be held in shape with light wires
for weight reduction

Principles of Aircraft Construction

Frame based structure aircraft (1)


Sopwith Camel (1917)

- Two wing design
- Extensive use of light wires
Principles of Aircraft Construction

Frame based structure aircraft (2)


Hawker Fury (1931)

- General reduction in light wires used
- Light wires between wings abandoned
Principles of Aircraft Construction

Frame based structure aircraft (3)


Hawker Hurricane (1935)

- Light wires almost completely removed
- Two wing concept abandoned for improved aerodynamics
Principles of Aircraft Construction

Stressed skin construction

• The standard for most general aviation
aircraft builders
• The metal skin exterior is riveted, or bolted
and riveted,
riveted to the finished fuselage frame
• The skin of the structure is load bearing
• Different from an internal framework or
truss structure where the skin is not load
Principles of Aircraft Construction

Structural Components in Stressed

Skin Construction
• Function
F ti
– Transmit and resist the applied loads
– Protect payload from environmental conditions
• Types
– Monocoque
– Semi-monocoque
• Monocoque
q structures
– Skins used solely to resist loads
• Semi-monocoque structures
– Outer skin is supported by longitudinal stiffening
Principles of Aircraft Construction

Monocoque & Semi-Monocoque

Principles of Aircraft Construction

Monocoque Structure
• A thin walled tube or shell which may have
bulkheads or formers installed within.
• It can carry loads effectively, particularly when
the tubes are of small diameter.
• The stresses in the monocoque fuselage are
transmitted primarily by the strength of the skin.
• As its diameter of the fuselage increases in
monocoque structure
structure, the weight-to-strength
ratio increases.
Principles of Aircraft Construction

Semi Monocoque Structure

• Depends primarily on bulkheads, frames and
formers for vertical strength.
• Depends on longerons and stringers for
g strength.
• The most popular type of structure used in
aircraft design today.
• Enabled aircraft designers to use aluminum
skins as light as 0
4 mm in thickness for primary
structure on airplanes.
Principles of Aircraft Construction

Boeing Fuselage Construction

Principles of Aircraft Construction

Materials of Construction
• Aluminum alloys
• Steel
• Titanium
• Plastics
• Glass
• Composite materials

Principles of Aircraft Construction

Stress strain of different materials


Higher allowable stress achieved using carbon fibers

Principles of Aircraft Construction

Materials composition in Boeing

747 and 777
Principles of Aircraft Construction

Materials composition in a
Eurofighter jet
Principles of Aircraft Construction

Carbon Nanotube Composites

100-metre-long carbon-nanotube composite fibres that are tougher than any natural
or synthetic organic fibre described so far.
Super-tough carbon-nanotube fibres, A.B. Dalton, Nature 423, 703 (2003)

Principles of Aircraft Construction

Sandwich Structures
• A major limitation of stressed skin
g y
construction is lack of rigidity
• Sandwich structure comprises
– Two
T end
d thin
thi plates
l t
– Light and fairly rigid core placed in the middle
– Parts bonded together with adhesive
• Honeycomb cells is the most common
sandwich structure currently in use
Principles of Aircraft Construction

Honeycomb Wing Design

One design to improve the

flexural strength of wings is to
use honeycomb structures.

Honeycomb structures have

high flexural strength to weight
Principles of Aircraft Construction

Laying up a sandwich panel

Curved and flat structures can be constructed

Principles of Aircraft Construction

Sandwich panels

Sandwich panels can be constructed for almost every component

Principles of Aircraft Construction

Load Transfer Principle

Airframes often cannot be designed to
support loads at locations where the loads
appear (Section B may not be able to
support torsion and bending moment applied

Airframe loads are collected

locally and transferred to
major load
members. (Load may not to
be transferred to section A)

Care must be taken to avoid

excessive local stress & deflections
at the location of load bearing.
Principles of Aircraft Construction

Load Transfer Example (1)

The skin of the wing is often
not able to withstand strong
p loads.

The load acting on the skin

has to be transferred to
a. Rib
b. Vertical Stiffener
c. Spars
d. Flange Wing section
to withstand the load
Principles of Aircraft Construction

Load Transfer Example (2)

Strong compressive loads
applied on the fuselage skin
may cause it to
t buckle
b kl

The loads acting on the skin

has to be transferred to
A Frame
B. Stringer

Principles of Aircraft Construction

• Aircraft fabrication generally involves
g one ppart of component
p to another
• With aluminum alloy construction, riveted
joints are the major means of connection
• Other connection means are
– Welding
– Adhesion

Principles of Aircraft Construction

Lap Joints
Lap jjoint
L i t iis a single
i l liline off
rivets connecting two plates

Lap joint failure can occur

4 Pb
A. Rivet Shear τ=
πd 2
B. Rivet Bearing Stress σb =
C. Plate Tension σ=
t (b − d )

D. Plate Shear Pb The plates carry edge loads of P /unit width

Multiple rivet lines affect the rivet stresses
but not the plate stresses
Principles of Aircraft Construction

Joint Efficiency
• Joint efficiency is
measured by comparing σt (b − d ) / b b − d
η= =
actual failure load with σt b
load to be applied if there
were no rivet holes
• Joint efficiency can be
increased by having
multiple rows of rivets
• Joint efficiency can never
be 100%