The aircraft hydraulic system is an integral part of any aircraft for the movement and actuation of various hydraulic systems. For a typical aircraft, these often include systems and equipment such as aircraft wheel brakes, bay doors, handle wing flaps, and many other flight pertinent components. Even the autopilot system contains servos that are operated by hydraulic actuators, allowing manipulation of control services. Hydraulic systems work through the enacting of pressure upon enclosed fluids, then transferring that pressure throughout the system to actuate a command. Hydraulic systems are extremely reliable, efficient, and easy to maintain, making them very suitable for aircraft control. In this article, we will discuss the advantages of the hydraulic system, as well as some challenges faced in hydraulic design.
As hydraulics achieve actuation by utilizing pressure transfer through small amounts of fluid, they can benefit aircraft of various sizes. Small aircraft may have landing gear and other basic components controlled by hydraulic systems, while larger commercial jets may have many systems such as the aircraft wheel brake system, flight control services, and other parts relying on hydraulics. Military aircraft may also rely on hydraulic systems to operate guns, bay doors, and other weapon components on top of their standard systems. While pneumatic systems may be lighter in comparison, they face problems such as vibration sensitivity, noise, and lack of precision controls, all to which give hydraulics an advantage. As liquids are typically incompressible, there is no delay in actuation and they offer much more force. Various hydraulic oil may be used that feature different amounts of lubrication, corrosion resistance, and operating temperatures. Finding the right type of hydraulic oil can often be as simple as referring to a specific aircraft’s maintenance manual.
Despite their numerous advantages, there are some difficulties faced by engineers during the design of hydraulic systems. When designing a hydraulic system for an aircraft, the aircraft’s intended operation, pressure conditions, operating temperature ranges, weight, speed, and many other factors need to be taken into account. During flight and standard operation, hydraulic systems may encounter very heavy pressures during their functions, and temperatures can highly fluctuate due to high elevations and heated surrounding components, therefore hydraulic systems need to have great integrity to operate under a range of conditions. Different fluids have their own ratio of viscosity to operable temperature ranges, and choosing the correct type will ensure proper operation and efficiency of the hydraulic system and aircraft. All components from the aircraft wheel brakes to the wing flaps are designed with high quality and great precision to guarantee safe and efficient operation, just as hydraulic systems are as well.
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