Many of an aircraft’s important functions, such as operating wheel brakes, landing gear, and deploying flaps, all rely on linear hydraulic actuators. More and more systems are able to find functionality that can be improved with hydraulics. With these many increased utilizations and benefits, actuators have become almost an essential part of any aircraft vehicle.
In basic terms, an actuator is a “mover”, and works to translate mechanical motion into a linear one. With liquids being virtually incompressible, they can be used as a great source of power to help actuators function. Linear hydraulic actuators have seen increased popularity as they can be fitted into tight spaces of aircraft and are lightweight, proving useful for providing mechanical functionality without costing high amounts of energy. Their input lag for system demands are low, and safety is high due to having no electricity and they hold very low fire hazard risk. Maintenance of hydraulic actuators is fairly simple as they either function or don’t, letting crews quickly know when to fix the problem. Their uses are almost limitless as well with such great amounts of force that hydraulics are able to exert.
Aircraft hydraulic systems operate on the principle of Pascal’s Law. Simply put, Pascal’s law is that a change in pressure in an enclosed liquid will have that same pressure evenly reflected in the rest of the liquid as well. This helps create immense power when hydraulics are used to transfer pressure and create useful mechanical functionality. With selector valves, fluid direction can be controlled, allowing for important processes such as landing gear to be deployed or retracted.
To deploy landing gear, hydraulic systems and actuators are utilized in that they help unlock the hook for gear, and hydraulic pressure is applied to rotate the landing gear downward for use. With retraction, the gear is simply hydraulically rotated back up into the hook before bay doors are closed. Beyond just landing gear, hydraulic actuators serve many uses that are impeccable to the performance and functionality of an aircraft. With their many uses, safety, and easy maintenance, linear hydraulic actuators prove to be an invaluable asset to aircraft.
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