Landing Gear Types – Shock Strut Operation and Servicing

in Aircraft Landing Gear Systems

Shock Strut Operation

Figure 13-23 illustrates the inner construction of a shock strut. Arrows show the movement of the fluid during compression and extension of the strut. The compression stroke of the shock strut begins as the aircraft wheels touch the ground. As the center of mass of the aircraft moves downward, the strut compresses, and the lower cylinder or piston is forced upward into the upper cylinder. The metering pin is therefore moved up through the orifice. The taper of the pin controls the rate of fluid flow from the bottom cylinder to the top cylinder at all points during the compression stroke. In this manner, the greatest amount of heat is dissipated through the walls of the strut. At the end of the downward stroke, the compressed air in the upper cylinder is further compressed which limits the compression stroke of the strut with minimal impact. During taxi operations, the air in the tires and the strut combine to smooth out bumps.


Figure 13-23. Fluid flow during shock strut operation is controlled by the taper of the metering pin in the shock strut orifice.

Figure 13-23. Fluid flow during shock strut operation is controlled by the taper of the metering pin in the shock strut orifice.

Insufficient fluid, or air in the strut, cause the compression stroke to not be properly limited. The strut could bottom out, resulting in impact forces to be transferred directly to the airframe through the metallic structure of the strut. In a properly serviced strut, the extension stroke of the shock strut operation occurs at the end of the compression stroke. Energy stored in the compressed air in the upper cylinder causes the aircraft to start moving upward in relation to the ground and lower strut cylinder as the strut tries to rebound to its normal position. Fluid is forced back down into the lower cylinder through restrictions and snubbing orifices. The snubbing of fluid flow during the extension stroke dampens the strut rebound and reduces oscillation caused by the spring action of the compressed air. A sleeve, spacer, or bumper ring incorporated into the strut limits the extension stroke.

Efficient operation of the shock struts requires that proper fluid and air pressure be maintained. To check the fluid level, most struts need to be deflated and compressed into the fully compressed position. Deflating a shock strut can be a dangerous operation. The technician must be thoroughly familiar with the operation of the high-pressure service valve found at the top of the strut’s upper cylinder. Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for proper deflating technique of the strut in question and follow all necessary safety precautions.

Figure 13-24. Valve core-type (A) and core-free valve fittings (B) are used to service landing gear shock struts.

Figure 13-24. Valve core-type (A) and core-free valve fittings (B) are used to service landing gear shock struts. [click image to enlarge]

Two common types of high pressure strut servicing valves are illustrated in Figure 13-24. The AN6287-1 valve in Figure 13-24A has a valve core assembly and is rated to 3,000 pounds per square inch (psi). However, the core itself is only rated to 2,000 psi. The MS28889-1 valve in Figure 13-24B has no valve core. It is rated to 5,000 psi. The swivel nut on the AN6287-1 valve is smaller than the valve body hex. The MS28889-1 swivel nut is the same size as the valve body hex. The swivel nuts on both valves engage threads on an internal stem that loosens or draws tight the valve stem to a metal seat.

Figure 13-25. Steps in servicing a landing gear shock strut include releasing the air from the strut and removing the service valve from the top of the strut to permit the introduction of hydraulic fluid. Note that the strut is illustrated horizontally. On an actual aircraft installation, the strut is serviced in the vertical position (landing gear down).

Figure 13-25. Steps in servicing a landing gear shock strut include releasing the air from the strut and removing the service valve from the top of the strut to permit the introduction of hydraulic fluid. Note that the strut is illustrated horizontally. On an actual aircraft installation, the strut is serviced in the vertical position (landing gear down). [click image to enlarge]

Servicing Shock Struts

The following procedures are typical of those used in deflating a shock strut, servicing it with hydraulic fluid, and re-inflating the strut.

  1. Position the aircraft so that the shock struts are in the normal ground operating position. Make certain that personnel, work stands, and other obstacles are clear of the aircraft. If the maintenance procedures require, securely jack the aircraft.
  2. Remove the cap from the air servicing valve. [Figure 13-25A]
  3. Check the swivel nut for tightness.
  4. If the servicing valve is equipped with a valve core, depress it to release any air pressure that may be trapped under the core in the valve body. [Figure 13-25B] Always be positioned to the side of the trajectory of any valve core in case it releases. Propelled by strut air pressure, serious injury could result.
  5. Loosen the swivel nut. For a valve with a valve core (AN2687-1), rotate the swivel nut one turn (counter clockwise). Using a tool designed for the purpose, depress the valve core to release all of the air in the strut. For a valve without a valve core (MS28889), rotate the swivel nut sufficiently to allow the air to escape.
  6. When all air has escaped from the strut, it should be compressed completely. Aircraft on jacks may need to have the lower strut jacked with an exerciser jack to achieve full compression of the strut. [Figure 13-26]
  7. Remove the valve core of an AN6287 valve [Figure 13-25D] using a valve core removal tool. [Figure 13-27] Then, remove the entire service valve by unscrewing the valve body from the strut. [Figure 13-25E]
  8. Fill the strut with hydraulic fluid to the level of the service valve port with the approved hydraulic fluid.
  9. Re-install the air service valve assembly using a new O-ring packing. Torque according to applicable manufacturer’s specifications. If an AN2687-1 valve, install a new valve core.
  10. Inflate the strut. A threaded fitting from a controlled source of high pressure air or nitrogen should be screwed onto the servicing valve. Control the flow with the service valve swivel nut. The correct amount of inflation is measured in psi on some struts. Other manufacturers specify struts to be inflated until extension of the lower strut is a certain measurement. Follow manufacturer’s instructions. Shock struts should always be inflated slowly to avoid excess heating and over inflation.
  11. Once inflated, tighten the swivel nut and torque as specified.
  12. Remove the fill hose fitting and finger tighten the valve cap of the valve.
Figure 13-26. Air trapped in shock strut hydraulic fluid is bled by exercising the strut through its full range of motion while the end of an air-tight bleed hose is submerged in a container of hydraulic fluid.

Figure 13-26. Air trapped in shock strut hydraulic fluid is bled by exercising the strut through its full range of motion while the end of an air-tight bleed hose is submerged in a container of hydraulic fluid.

Figure 13-27. This valve tool features internal and external thread chasers, a notched valve core removal/installation tool, and a tapered end for depressing a valve core or clearing debris.

Figure 13-27. This valve tool features internal and external thread chasers, a notched valve core removal/installation tool, and a tapered end for depressing a valve core or clearing debris.

Bleeding Shock Struts

It may be necessary to bleed a shock strut during the service operation or when air becomes trapped in the hydraulic fluid inside the strut. This can be caused by low hydraulic fluid quantity in the strut. Bleeding is normally done with the aircraft on jacks to facilitate repeated extension and compression of the strut to expel the entrapped air. An example procedure for bleeding the shock strut follows.

  1. Construct and attach a bleed hose containing a fitting suitable for making an airtight connection at the shock strut service valve port. Ensure a long enough hose to reach the ground while the aircraft is on jacks.
  2. Jack the aircraft until the shock struts are fully extended.
  3. Release any air pressure in the shock strut.
  4. Remove the air service valve assembly.
  5. Fill the strut to the level of the service port with approved hydraulic fluid.
  6. Attach the bleed hose to the service port and insert the free end of the hose into a container of clean hydraulic fluid. The hose end must remain below the surface of the fluid.
  7. Place an exerciser jack or other suitable jack under the shock strut jacking point. Compress and extend the strut fully by raising and lowering the jack. Continue this process until all air bubbles cease to form in the container of hydraulic fluid. Compress the strut slowly and allow it to extend by its own weight.
  8. Remove the exerciser jack. Lower the aircraft and remove all other jacks.
  9. Remove the bleed hose assembly and fitting from the service port of the strut.
  10. Install the air service valve, torque, and inflate the shock strut to the manufacturer’s specifications.