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How Aircraft Are Assembled and Tested

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Flight was once thought to be an impossibility, and yet today, air travel is readily available to the point that it’s taken for granted. Despite flying under the radar, there’s a lot that goes into getting aircraft ready to fly, let alone ferry passengers. From manufacture to testing, this is what you need to know about modern aircraft.

Manufacturing

The construction of an aircraft faces two major logistical problems. First of all, an airplane is a complex machine, and that means that it will need a variety of intricate components that have to be arranged just so in order to create a functional vehicle. Secondly, the average commercial airliner is massive, and this presents a problem in terms of how the machine is constructed. The process begins with the manufacture of individual pieces, and this includes mechanical parts and pieces of the hull itself, for example.

From there, the pieces must be assembled, a project that requires a lot of space and labor. The assembly phase typically takes place in a hangar, because the assembled aircraft will have to be able to leave in one piece. The assembly process starts with a steel frame before pieces of the hull will be welded in place. Between the use of welding and the scope of the project, workers will face a certain degree of danger, but proper arc flash safety protocols make it a manageable task.

Once the hull is complete, construction can begin on the interior of the craft. This includes not only the assembly of walls and floors, but also electronics, engines, and other more complex mechanical installations. For example, the control panel of an aircraft can be staggeringly complex, and the plane will need to be fitted with an intercom system, seating, and limited utilities.

Testing

Before an aircraft can be officially licensed for use, it needs to undergo a variety of tests in order to ensure that the craft is able to fly without any complications. This is important, because the complexity of an airplane means that a lot of things can and will go wrong, and this testing process helps to root out any potential faults that can lead to mechanical failures. This is done in order to protect the passengers, be they the staff or the passengers.

One of the more crucial elements of the airplane testing process is ensuring the integrity of the hull. In addition to their massive size and sturdy composition, the thick, steel hull of a commercial airliner is designed to keep the cabin pressurized, something that is difficult to do at high altitudes. Damage to the hull of an airplane can be catastrophic, and even minor faults can cause noticeable problems keeping air pressure.

The function of the engine is an even more essential component of an airplane. While this is true of any motorized vehicle, an engine failure in an aircraft spells immediate danger, whereas the breakdown of a car or boat will simply leave their passengers stranded in a relatively safe location. Stress testing the engines is not an uncommon part of the process, because it helps to eliminate the potential for an unexpected engine failure during transit.

There are also many functional components of an aircraft that need to be testing. While this applies to a wide variety of functions, the most critical are, of course, the controls of the plane, the intercom system, and various safety features. Without all of these things in working order, the risk of disaster is too high for an aircraft to be certified. However, commercial airliners also need to make sure various other features work as intended for the sake of their passengers. For example, the utilities need to be in working order so that passengers aboard a 14 hour flight have a functional bathroom at their disposal. Likewise, commercial airlines typically offer food and drink to their passengers, without which long flights in particular will be less desirable.

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