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Avionics Engineers and Avionics Installations

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Avionics Engineers and Avionics Installations

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Avionics Engineers and Avionics Installations

Avionics Engineers and Avionics Installations

By John Routledge


Avionics engineers and avionics installations.

When aircraft mechanics plan new avionics installations or avionics modifications for an aircraft, the installers and technicians will be presented with the proposed installation. They will input their concerns and expectations. This will go towards increasing the reliability and maintainability of an installation.

Damage to surrounding wiring and connectors could have occurred without the avionics engineers knowledge. High-quality installations prevent problems caused by vibration, moisture, chafing, RF interference, and other sources of trouble.

Aircraft mechanics installing avionics radios.

The initial part of avionics installations involve building wiring harnesses, then roughly routing the harness into the airplane to see how it will fit. During the rough routing, the installer should note all points that will require special attention to avoid chafing and RF interference. As the actual routing takes place, the installer should take care of those potential trouble spots by installing clamps, protecting wiring harnesses with plastic spiral wrap, and installing caterpillar grommets in lightening holes. To avoid RF interference, the harness should be routed to clear high current cables and any other wiring that could interfere with each other electronically.

To prevent chafing, all wiring harnesses, plumbing, and installed equipment should not come into hard contact with the structure or with each other. At no time should equipment or equipment racks come into direct contact with nearby structures. Because the aircraft skin and structure can flex during flight, establish at least a quarter inch or more for adequate clearance around the proposed and adjoining equipment.

If wiring harnesses lye gently on smooth aluminum skin with no sharp edges, the likelihood of damaged wiring is slim, but possible. The key is relative motion and pressure. The greater the pressure and relative motion, the greater the potential for insulation breakdown. To be safe, it's preferable to clamp the harness to protect it from rubbing against the skin.

In the avionics bays at the nose of aircraft, shock-mounted equipment racks should take into account the movement of the radio during normal aircraft operations. The same is true of wiring harnesses clearance from plumbing lines, especially those carrying oil, fuel, and oxygen. There should be no physical contact between adjoining plumbing, wiring, or structure. Never use plumbing for primary support. It's okay to use standoffs to separate harnesses from plumbing, but at no time should the plumbing carry the weight of the harness.

Wires are insulated, but the insulation isn't impervious to damage from sharp edges, heat, or excessive pressure such as that imposed when wires are clamped with nylon ties against a metal surface. Designers must work to a consistent standard for wiring harness installations.

A mantra for aircraft mechanics is don't limit clamping provisions. A sufficient quantity of clamps is necessary to prevent harness droop between clamps. Don't route wiring harnesses to come into contact with sharp surfaces or ride against any moveable surface. Provide antichafing if necessary. Do not design location and space requirements without allowing for service loops (adequate slack in harness that will allow maintenance). Don't design wiring harnesses to route in hot areas without adequate thermal protection. Don't route harnesses in areas that are subject to chemical damage without protective conduit, such as landing gear wells and engine compartments. Rack mounting. The shelf is prepared with inserts that are first drilled, edge-filled for strength, inserted, and injected to prevent the inserts from coming loose and to add additional strength.

Aircraft mechanics should follow these rules on mounting radio receivers, transmitters, amplifiers and computers. Hard-mounted equipment can be installed as close as necessary to other equipment except for clearance needed for cooling (usually 1/4-inch). Rack-to-equipment contact should take bonding into consideration when depending on tension contact. Paint should be removed from the radio where tension contact is expected to touch bare metal. Provide harness supports at the back of the rack to alleviate stress on wiring and connectors that could cause difficult-to-troubleshoot failures down the line. Allow sufficient distance between the radio and the aircraft's skin. Normal airflow and aerodynamic stresses on the skin can cause changes in this clearance. The goal is to avoid contact between the skin and the radio. Fasteners for holding radio racks in place should be secured with locking devices (either a lockwasher or locknut) to prevent vibration from allowing screws to loosen. This is especially important where radio racks sit above flight controls. If a loose radio rack could impinge on flight controls, it is a good idea to add supports to the rack as a backup to prevent flight control interference. Provide sufficient space for wiring harnesses and coaxial cable connectors. Coaxing cables must enter the mating connector on the equipment in as straight and natural a routing as possible to prevent connector damage.

Provide protection from moisture. The time to find out your windshield is leaking is before you spent out on a new radio installation. Make sure all fasteners used in the installation can handle stresses that will be imposed.

If the installation is in a pressurized aircraft, all areas that penetrate the pressure vessel must be sealed to prevent cabin pressure leakage. One small leak might not affect pressurization, but a number of small leaks could cause a significant drop in the ability to pressurize the cabin.

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John Routledge

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