Aircraft Rigging – Control Operating Systems (Part One)

in Aerodynamics, Aircraft Assembly, and Rigging

Control Operating Systems
Cable Systems

There are various types of cable:


  • Material—aircraft control cables are fabricated from carbon steel or stainless (corrosion resistant) steel. Additionally, some manufacturers use a nylon coated cable that is produced by extruding a flexible nylon coating over corrosion-resistant steel (CRES) cable. By adding the nylon coating to the corrosion resistant steel cable, it increases the service life by protecting the cable strands from friction wear, keeping dirt and grit out, and dampening vibration which can work-harden the wires in long runs of cable.
  • Cable construction—the basic component of a cable is a wire. The diameter of the wire determines the total diameter of the cable. A number of wires are preformed into a helical or spiral shape and then formed into a strand. These preformed strands are laid around a straight center strand to form a cable.
  • Cable designations—based on the number of strands and wires in each strand. The 7 × 19 cable is made up of seven strands of 19 wires each. Six of these strands are laid around the center strand. This cable is very flexible and is used in primary control systems and in other locations where operation over pulleys is frequent. The 7 × 7 cable consists of seven strands of seven wires each. Six of these strands are laid around the center strand. This cable is of medium flexibility and is used for trim tab controls, engine controls, and indicator controls. [Figure 2-65] Types of control cable termination include:
  • Woven splice—a hand-woven 5-tuck splice used on aircraft cable. The process is very time consuming and produces only about 75 percent of the original cable strength. The splice is rarely used except on some antique aircraft where the effort is made to keep all parts in their original configuration.
  • Nicopress® process—a patented process using copper sleeves and may be used up to the full rated strength of the cable when the cable is looped around a thimble. [Figure 2-66] This process may also be used in place of the 5-tuck splice on cables up to and including 3⁄8- inch diameter. Whenever this process is used for cable splicing, it is imperative that the tools, instructions, and data supplied by Nicopress® be followed exactly to ensure the desired cable function and strength is attained. The use of sleeves that are fabricated of material other than copper requires engineering approval for the specific application by the FAA.
  • Swage-type terminals—manufactured in accordance with Army-Navy (AN) and Military Standards (MS), are suitable for use in civil aircraft up to, and including, maximum cable loads. [Figure 2-67]
Figure 2-65. Cable construction and cross-section.

Figure 2-65. Cable construction and cross-section.

Figure 2-66. Typical Nicopress® thimble-eye splice.

Figure 2-66. Typical Nicopress® thimble-eye splice.

Figure 2-67. Swage-type terminal fittings.

Figure 2-67. Swage-type terminal fittings.

When swaging tools are used, it is imperative that all the manufacturer’s instructions, including ‘go’ and ‘no-go’ dimensions, be followed exactly to avoid defective and inferior swaging. Compliance with all of the instructions should result in the terminal developing the full-rated strength of the cable. The following basic procedures are used when swaging terminals onto cable ends:

  • Cut the cable to length, allowing for growth during swaging. Apply a preservative compound to the cable end before insertion into the terminal barrel. Measure the internal length of the terminal end/barrel of the fitting to determine the proper length of the cable to be inserted. Transfer that measurement to the end of the cable and mark it with a piece of masking tape wrapped around the cable. This provides a positive mark to ensure the cable did not slip during the swaging process. NOTE: Never solder the cable ends to prevent fraying since the solder greatly increases the tendency of the cable to pull out of the terminal.
  • Insert the cable into the terminal approximately one inch and bend it toward the terminal. Then, push the cable end all the way into the terminal. The bending action puts a slight kink in the cable end and provides enough friction to hold the terminal in place until the swaging operation is performed. [Figure 2-68]
  • Accomplish the swaging operation in accordance with the instructions furnished by the manufacturer of the swaging equipment.
  • Inspect the terminal after swaging to determine that it is free of die marks and splits and is not out of round. Check the cable for slippage at the masking tape and for cut and broken wire strands.
  • Using a go/no-go gauge supplied by the swaging tool manufacturer or a micrometer and swaging chart, check the terminal shank diameter for proper dimension. [Figures 2-69 and 2-70]
  • Test the cable by proof-loading locally fabricated splices and newly installed swage terminal cable fittings for proper strength before installation. This is conducted by slowly applying a test load equal to 60 percent of the rated breaking strength of the cable listed in Figure 2-71.
Figure 2-68. Insertion of cable into terminal.

Figure 2-68. Insertion of cable into terminal.

Figure 2-69. Gauging terminal shank dimension after swaging.

Figure 2-69. Gauging terminal shank dimension after swaging.

Figure 2-70. Straight shank terminal dimensions.

Figure 2-70. Straight shank terminal dimensions. [click image to enlarge]

Figure 2-71. Flexible cable construction.

Figure 2-71. Flexible cable construction. [click image to enlarge]

This load should be held for at least 3 minutes. Any testing of this type can be dangerous. Suitable guards should be placed over the cable during the test to prevent injury to personnel in the event of cable failure. If a proper test fixture is not available, the load test should be contracted out and performed by a properly equipped facility.

Cable Inspection

Aircraft cable systems are subject to a variety of environmental conditions and deterioration. Wire or strand breakage is easy to recognize visually. Other kinds of deterioration, such as wear, corrosion, and distortion, are not easily seen. Special attention should be given to areas where cables pass through battery compartments, lavatories, and wheel wells. These are prime areas for corrosion. Special attention should be given to critical fatigue areas. Those areas are defined as anywhere the cable runs over, under, or around a pulley, sleeve, or through a fairlead; or any section where the cable is flexed, rubbed,

or within 1 foot of a swaged-on fitting. Close inspection in these critical fatigue areas can be performed by rubbing a rag along the cable. If there are any broken strands, the rag snags on the cable. A more detailed inspection can be performed in areas that may be corroded or indicate a fatigue failure by loosing or removing the cable and bending it. This technique reveals internal broken strands not readily apparent from the outside. [Figure 2-72]

Figure 2-72. Cable inspection technique.

Figure 2-72. Cable inspection technique.