Wiring Installation and Routing (Part One)

in Aircraft Electrical System

Wire Installation and Routing
Open Wiring

Interconnecting wire is used in point-to-point open harnesses, normally in the interior or pressurized fuselage, with each wire providing enough insulation to resist damage from handling and service exposure. Electrical wiring is often installed in aircraft without special enclosing means. This practice is known as open wiring and offers the advantages of ease of maintenance and reduced weight.

Wire Groups and Bundles and Routing

Wires are often installed in bundles to create a more organized installation. These wire bundles are often called wire harnesses. Wire harnesses are often made in the factory or electrical shop on a jig board so that the wire bundles could be preformed to fit into the aircraft. [Figure 9-129] As a result, each harness for a particular aircraft installation is identical in shape and length. The wiring harness could be covered by a shielding (metal braid) to avoid EMI. Grouping or bundling certain wires, such as electrically unprotected power wiring and wiring going to duplicate vital equipment, should be avoided. Wire bundles should generally be less than 75 wires, or 11⁄2 to 2 inches in diameter where practicable. When several wires are grouped at junction boxes, terminal blocks, panels, etc., identity of the groups within a bundle can be retained.

Figure 9-129. Cable harness jig board.

Figure 9-129. Cable harness jig board.

Slack in Wire Bundles

Wiring should be installed with sufficient slack so that bundles and individual wires are not under tension. Wires connected to movable or shock-mounted equipment should have sufficient length to allow full travel without tension on the bundle. Wiring at terminal lugs or connectors should have sufficient slack to allow two reterminations without replacement of wires. This slack should be in addition to the drip loop and the allowance for movable equipment. Normally, wire groups or bundles should not exceed 1⁄2 inch deflection between support points. [Figure 9-130] This measurement may be exceeded if there is no possibility of the wire group or bundle touching a surface that may cause abrasion. Sufficient slack should be provided at each end to permit replacement of terminals and ease of maintenance; prevent mechanical strain on the wires, cables, junctions, and supports; permit free movement of shock- and vibration-mounted equipment; and allow shifting of equipment, as necessary, to perform alignment, servicing, tuning, removal of dust covers, and changing of internal components while installed in aircraft.

Figure 9-130. Slack between supports of a cable harness.

Figure 9-130. Slack between supports of a cable harness. [click image to enlarge]

Twisting Wires

When specified on the engineering drawing, or when accomplished as a local practice, parallel wires must sometimes be twisted. The following are the most common examples:

  1. Wiring in the vicinity of magnetic compass or flux valve
  2. Three-phase distribution wiring
  3. Certain other wires (usually radio wiring) as specified on engineering drawings

Twist the wires so they lie snugly against each other, making approximately the number of twists per foot as shown in Figure 9-131. Always check wire insulation for damage after twisting. If the insulation is torn or frayed, replace the wire.

Figure 9-131. Recommended number of wire twists per foot.

Figure 9-131. Recommended number of wire twists per foot.

Spliced Connections In Wire Bundles

Splicing is permitted on wiring as long as it does not affect the reliability and the electromechanical characteristics of the wiring. Splicing of power wires, coaxial cables, multiplex bus, and large-gauge wire must have approved data. Splicing of electrical wire should be kept to a minimum and avoided entirely in locations subject to extreme vibrations. Splicing of individual wires in a group or bundle should have engineering approval, and the splice(s) should be located to allow periodic inspection.

Many types of aircraft splice connector are available for use when splicing individual wires. Use of a self-insulated splice connector is preferred; however, a non-insulated splice connector may be used provided the splice is covered with plastic sleeving that is secured at both ends. Environmentally sealed splices that conform to MIL-T-7928 provide a reliable means of splicing in SWAMP areas. However, a noninsulated splice connector may be used, provided the splice is covered with dual-wall shrink sleeving of a suitable material.

There should be no more than one splice in any one wire segment between any two connectors or other disconnect points. Exceptions include when attaching to the spare pigtail lead of a potted connector, when splicing multiple wires to a single wire, when adjusting wire size to fit connector contact crimp barrel size, and when required to make an approved repair.

Splices in bundles must be staggered to minimize any increase in the size of the bundle, preventing the bundle from fitting into its designated space or causing congestion that adversely affects maintenance. [Figure 9-132]

Figure 9-132. Staggered splices in wire bundle.

Figure 9-132. Staggered splices in wire bundle. [click image to enlarge]

Splices should not be used within 12 inches of a termination device, except when attaching to the pigtail spare lead of a potted termination device, to splice multiple wires to a single wire, or to adjust the wire sizes so that they are compatible with the contact crimp barrel sizes.

Bend Radii

The minimum radius of bends in wire groups or bundles must not be less than 10 times the outside diameter of the largest wire or cable, except that at the terminal strips where wires break out at terminations or reverse direction in a bundle. Where the wire is suitably supported, the radius may be three times the diameter of the wire or cable. Where it is not practical to install wiring or cables within the radius requirements, the bend should be enclosed in insulating tubing. The radius for thermocouple wire should be done in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendation and shall be sufficient to avoid excess losses or damage to the cable. Ensure that RF cables (e.g., coaxial and triaxial) are bent at a radius of no less than six times the outside diameter of the cable.

Protection Against Chafing

Wires and wire groups should be protected against chafing or abrasion in those locations where contact with sharp surfaces or other wires would damage the insulation, or chafing could occur against the airframe or other components. Damage to the insulation can cause short circuits, malfunction, or inadvertent operation of equipment.