November is Aviation History Month, recognizing the advancements and achievements in aviation, as well as the contributions of those who have impacted the development of the aviation and aerospace industries.
It's well known that Orville Wright and his brother Wilbur designed and built the first powered airplane, known as the Wright Flyer. On December 17, 1903 at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, after four years of work and attempts, Orville piloted the first successful flight. It flew about 120 feet, that's only around 30% of the longest recorded baseball throw. Yet it was an astronomical achievement.
The two brothers continued to make advancements in aviation with the Wright 1909 Military Flyer. Purchased for $30,000 by a branch of the United States Army called the Signal Corps, the Wright 1909 was the first military "heavier-than-air" airplane and designated as Airplane No. 1. The original aircraft remains on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio- the birthplace of Orville Wright.
Thirty years after the 1909 Military Flyer, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued the first presidential proclamation designating August 19, Orville Wright's birthday, as a day in which citizens are encouraged to participate in activities that promote interest in aviation.
Many advancements in aviation continued throughout the years, from achievements by individuals, to organizations and NASA:
- In 1922, Lillian Gatlin was the first woman airplane passenger, flying across the United States as a postal carrier in an Air Mail Services de Havilland postal plane.
- The oldest airline in the United States was founded on March 2, 1925 and still remains a major carrier today. Delta Air Lines currently serves over 325 destinations with a fleet of more than 940 commercial planes.
- In 1927, Charles Lindbergh was the first person to fly non-stop across the Atlantic ocean, from New York to Paris, in 33 ½ hours.
- Five years later, in 1932, Amelia Earhart was the first woman aviator to fly across the Atlantic.
Hydraulics in Early Aviation to Modern Aerospace
Just as today, early aircraft employed a wide array of hydraulics. In 1936, the DC3 incorporated hydraulic systems in breaks, gear retraction, cowl flaps for cylinder cooling during takeoff and climbing, and wing flaps to provide lift during takeoff or to increase drag when landing. Back then, they used vegetable oil-based hydraulic fluid, whereas in recent years MIL-H-5606 hydraulic mineral-oil based fluid has remained the most common.
Aviation Achievements Continue to Thrive
- In 1939, Willa Brown became the first African American female to earn a commercial pilot's license.
- Also in 1939, the world's first practical helicopter, the Vought-Sikorsky Aircraft VS-300, flew from Stratford, Connecticut. The craft was designed by Igor Sikorsky and built by a division of the United Aircraft Corporation.
- In 1941, the new Focke-Wulf FW-190 fighter aircraft was a rude awakening to German forces as these planes flew over France. They were considered the best of their type during World War II and produced in over 40 different model types due to its success.
- On September 12, 1962, President John F Kennedy famously stated, "We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard." We achieved this goal on July 20, 1969, when two astronauts landed Apollo 11 on the moon's surface.
- An American proposal to develop a permanently crewed earth-orbiting station was conceived in 1984. The International Space Station is the largest of its type low Earth orbit and involves five space agencies: the United States, Japan, Canada, Russia and the European Space Agency.
- Though not the first private individual to go to space, on October 13, 2021, at age 91, William Shatner (aka Captain Kirk of Star Trek fame) became the oldest person to go to space.
As the designs of hydraulic systems evolve and technology becomes more sophisticated, hydraulic systems are not only used for braking and flaps, but to leverage actuating cylinders and operate other components. Hydraulics also continue to advance in their capability for assisting in thrust to accelerate and drag to decelerate. The sophistication of these modern systems allows aircraft as large as the 853 passenger/560 ton Airbus A380-800 to take off, fly and land with little or no disturbance to its passengers.
A hydraulic system's critical components in today's aircraft include:
- A variety of Hydraulic Pumps, comprising of:
- Fixed displacement piston pumps that pressurize fluid in a cylinder.
- Gear pumps which use meshing gears to pump fluid.
- Variable displacement piston pumps are used for many functions as the most common pump on larger aircraft
- Actuating Cylinders use the piston in the cylinder to convert hydraulic pressure into work, performing tasks such as operating the wing flaps.
- Hydraulic Fittings are frequently subjected to high pressures in the connection of hoses, tubes and pipes and must adhere to strict NADCAP and other aerospace specifications and standards.
- Heat Exchangers are used to maintain hydraulic fluid temperature.
- Tubing, Hose and Piping in aircraft's hydraulic systems transmits fluid from the pump to motors, valves and actuators. Each of which is vital in operating the system.
- Pressure Relief Valves are adjusted to allow pressure to escape when reaching a set psi in order to protect the system from catastrophic failure.
To provide hydraulic components to the supply chain or directly to commercial and military aerospace OEMs, certain audits must be conducted and certifications must be obtained and kept up to date, such as:
- AS9100D Certificate
- The Nadcap Management Council along with the Nadcap Scope of Accreditation for Fluid Distribution Systems
- ITAR Registration Letter
- As well as an ISO 9001:2015 Certificate for an organization to apply for any of the above
With all these achievements, how far can or will we go? Will we someday put a person on Mars or travel to deep space as in the movie 2001 a Space Odyssey? Whatever the future holds, never lose sight of the fact that without these astronomical accomplishments in aviation and aerospace, you wouldn't be reading this from a laptop, desktop or tablet. You wouldn't make phone calls from a pocket size computer or stream Netflix. The list of modern technologies rooted in aviation advancements goes on.
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