Wings (Part Three)

in Aircraft Structures

Wing Skin

Often, the skin on a wing is designed to carry part of the flight and ground loads in combination with the spars and ribs. This is known as a stressed-skin design. The all-metal, full cantilever wing section illustrated in Figure 1-35 shows the structure of one such design. The lack of extra internal or external bracing requires that the skin share some of the load. Notice the skin is stiffened to aid with this function.


Figure 1-35. The skin is an integral load carrying part of a stressed skin design.

Figure 1-35. The skin is an integral load carrying part of a stressed skin design. [click image to enlarge]

Fuel is often carried inside the wings of a stressed-skin aircraft. The joints in the wing can be sealed with a special fuel resistant sealant enabling fuel to be stored directly inside the structure. This is known as wet wing design. Alternately, a fuel-carrying bladder or tank can be fitted inside a wing. Figure 1-36 shows a wing section with a box beam structural design such as one that might be found in a transport category aircraft. This structure increases strength while reducing weight. Proper sealing of the structure allows fuel to be stored in the box sections of the wing.

Figure 1-36. Fuel is often carried in the wings.

Figure 1-36. Fuel is often carried in the wings.

The wing skin on an aircraft may be made from a wide variety of materials such as fabric, wood, or aluminum. But a single thin sheet of material is not always employed. Chemically milled aluminum skin can provide skin of varied thicknesses.

Figure 1-37. The honeycomb panel is a staple in aircraft construction. Cores can be either constant thickness (A) or tapered (B). Tapered core honeycomb panels are frequently used as flight control surfaces and wing trailing edges.

Figure 1-37. The honeycomb panel is a staple in aircraft construction. Cores can be either constant thickness (A) or tapered (B). Tapered core honeycomb panels are frequently used as flight control surfaces and wing trailing edges. [click image to enlarge]

On aircraft with stressed-skin wing design, honeycomb structured wing panels are often used as skin. A honeycomb structure is built up from a core material resembling a bee hive’s honeycomb which is laminated or sandwiched between thin outer skin sheets. Figure 1-37 illustrates honeycomb panes and their components. Panels formed like this are lightweight and very strong. They have a variety of uses on the aircraft, such as floor panels, bulkheads, and control surfaces, as well as wing skin panels. Figure 1-38 shows the locations of honeycomb construction wing panels on a jet transport aircraft.

Figure 1-38. Honeycomb wing construction on a large jet transport aircraft.

Figure 1-38. Honeycomb wing construction on a large jet transport aircraft.

A honeycomb panel can be made from a wide variety of materials. Aluminum core honeycomb with an outer skin of aluminum is common. But honeycomb in which the core is an Arimid® fiber and the outer sheets are coated Phenolic® is common as well. In fact, a myriad of other material combinations such as those using fiberglass, plastic, Nomex®, Kevlar®, and carbon fiber all exist. Each honeycomb structure possesses unique characteristics depending upon the materials, dimensions, and manufacturing techniques employed. Figure 1-39 shows an entire wing leading edge formed from honeycomb structure.

Figure 1-39. A wing leading edge formed from honeycomb material bonded to the aluminum spar structure.

Figure 1-39. A wing leading edge formed from honeycomb material bonded to the aluminum spar structure. [click image to enlarge]

Nacelles

Nacelles (sometimes called “pods”) are streamlined enclosures used primarily to house the engine and its components. They usually present a round or elliptical profile to the wind thus reducing aerodynamic drag. On most single-engine aircraft, the engine and nacelle are at the forward end of the fuselage. On multiengine aircraft, engine nacelles are built into the wings or attached to the fuselage at the empennage (tail section). Occasionally, a multiengine aircraft is designed with a nacelle in line with the fuselage aft of the passenger compartment. Regardless of its location, a nacelle contains the engine and accessories, engine mounts, structural members, a firewall, and skin and cowling on the exterior to fare the nacelle to the wind.

Some aircraft have nacelles that are designed to house the landing gear when retracted. Retracting the gear to reduce wind resistance is standard procedure on high-performance/ high-speed aircraft. The wheel well is the area where the landing gear is attached and stowed when retracted. Wheel wells can be located in the wings and/or fuselage when not part of the nacelle. Figure 1-40 shows an engine nacelle incorporating the landing gear with the wheel well extending into the wing root.

Figure 1-40. Wheel wells in a wing engine nacelle with gear coming down (inset).

Figure 1-40. Wheel wells in a wing engine nacelle with gear coming down (inset). [click image to enlarge]

The framework of a nacelle usually consists of structural members similar to those of the fuselage. Lengthwise members, such as longerons and stringers, combine with horizontal/vertical members, such as rings, formers, and bulkheads, to give the nacelle its shape and structural integrity. A firewall is incorporated to isolate the engine compartment from the rest of the aircraft. This is basically a stainless steel or titanium bulkhead that contains a fire in the confines of the nacelle rather than letting it spread throughout the airframe. [Figure 1-41]
Figure 1-41. An engine nacelle firewall.

Figure 1-41. An engine nacelle firewall.

Engine mounts are also found in the nacelle. These are the structural assemblies to which the engine is fastened. They are usually constructed from chrome/molybdenum steel tubing in light aircraft and forged chrome/nickel/ molybdenum assemblies in larger aircraft. [Figure 1-42]

Figure 1-42. Various aircraft engine mounts.

Figure 1-42. Various aircraft engine mounts.

The exterior of a nacelle is covered with a skin or fitted with a cowling which can be opened to access the engine and components inside. Both are usually made of sheet aluminum or magnesium alloy with stainless steel or titanium alloys being used in high-temperature areas, such as around the exhaust exit. Regardless of the material used, the skin is typically attached to the framework with rivets.

Figure 1-43. Typical cowling for a horizontally opposed reciprocating engine.

Figure 1-43. Typical cowling for a horizontally opposed reciprocating engine.

Cowling refers to the detachable panels covering those areas into which access must be gained regularly, such as the engine and its accessories. It is designed to provide a smooth airflow over the nacelle and to protect the engine from damage. Cowl panels are generally made of aluminum alloy construction. However, stainless steel is often used as the inner skin aft of the power section and for cowl flaps and near cowl flap openings. It is also used for oil cooler ducts. Cowl flaps are moveable parts of the nacelle cowling that open and close to regulate engine temperature.

Figure 1-44. Orange peel cowling for large radial reciprocating engine.

Figure 1-44. Orange peel cowling for large radial reciprocating engine. [click image to enlarge]

There are many engine cowl designs. Figure 1-43 shows an exploded view of the pieces of cowling for a horizontally opposed engine on a light aircraft. It is attached to the nacelle by means of screws and/or quick release fasteners. Some large reciprocating engines are enclosed by “orange peel” cowlings which provide excellent access to components inside the nacelle. [Figure 1-44] These cowl panels are attached to the forward firewall by mounts which also serve as hinges for opening the cowl. The lower cowl mounts are secured to the hinge brackets by quick release pins. The side and top panels are held open by rods and the lower panel is retained in the open position by a spring and a cable. All of the cowling panels are locked in the closed position by overcenter steel latches which are secured in the closed position by spring-loaded safety catches.

Figure 1-45. Cowling on a transport category turbine engine nacelle.

Figure 1-45. Cowling on a transport category turbine engine nacelle. [click image to enlarge]

An example of a turbojet engine nacelle can be seen in Figure 1-45. The cowl panels are a combination of fixed and easily removable panels which can be opened and closed during maintenance. A nose cowl is also a feature on a jet engine nacelle. It guides air into the engine.