Since the original Wright brothers flight in Kitty Hawk, NC, powered aircraft have seen consistent advancements to their design and capabilities, allowing them to carry out operations that were before thought impossible. While technology such as the jet engine is often lauded for its impact on flight capabilities, there are numerous other aircraft changes that have made a significant difference, yet have mainly remained underappreciated. One of these is the flexible shaft, that of which is a structure located in areas such as the engine, exhaust, and wing structures. In this blog, we will discuss flexible shafts in brief detail, allowing you to better familiarize yourself with such aircraft elements and the role that they serve.
Flexible shafts are assemblies that are often compared to wire rope and cable components due to their resemblance, yet such shafts are designed with tightly wound springs for the means of achieving torsional strength. While flexible shafts have the benefit of bending for various needs, they are also able to rotate as well. This allows them to transmit rotary motion while being flexible enough to be routed around any obstructions that would impede the movement of a standard solid shaft.
A standard flexible shaft assembly will feature a rotating shaft known as a core, and metallic end fittings permit the attachment of the assembly onto mating structures. If ample protection is needed to guard the flexible shaft, a protective outer casing may be used. These outer casings have ferrules that ensure that the assembly is kept stationary when in operation.
As compared to other standard aircraft parts like universal joint parts, gears, sprockets and chains, and belts and pulleys, flexible shafts are one of the most efficient options for when rotary motion needs to be transmitted. Additionally, flexible shafts also have the added benefit of being lower in price as compared to other options while compensating for any misalignment, making them very advantageous. As aircraft components are regularly subjected to intensive environmental conditions and stressors, flexible shafts are designed to withstand temperatures upward of 1000 degrees Fahrenheit or rotational speeds upward of 50,000 RPM.
While flexible shafts may be used in various ways to accommodate numerous functions, they are most commonly implemented in areas that are complex where rotary transmission is needed. In such instances, they are the top choice as compared to gearboxes, belt and pulley assemblies, and universal joints. For a standard aircraft, the most common applications of flexible shafts include their implementation within thrust reverser actuation systems, flap actuation systems, valve override systems, rescue hoists, afterburner nozzle actuation systems, pedal adjustment systems, refueling tubes, and much more.
While the flexible shaft is a very useful aircraft element that is quite advanced, it will face regular wear and tear over time, especially when located in areas where the assembly is faced with high amounts of heat and stressors. To prevent costly downtime or other various issues, one should ensure that the flexible shafts and other assemblies of their aircraft are regularly inspected and maintained for airworthiness and reliability. If you are conducting maintenance and find that you require a spare part for replacement or other various aviation products, look no further than Just NSN Parts for fulfilling all your operational needs.
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