Posted on: 14 February 2018
Most people who have ever travelled in a commercial jet will realise that it is the fuselage of the aircraft that protects them from the world outside. Essentially, an aeroplane's fuselage is the sheet metal covering on the outside of the vehicle that allows the internal cabin to be pressurised such that its passengers and crew are not exposed to the low pressure outside which would be fatal given the high altitudes modern jets fly at. However, the highly engineered metalwork that makes up a plane's fuselage provides much more than a mere outer layer. Other than being the 'skin' of an aircraft, what it is that makes it so important to the safe running of a modern jet?
It is a mistake to think of the metal fuselage of a passenger or freight jet as only providing a bubble of safety inside for a plane's occupants. Yes, it performs this function, but modern aircraft use their fuselage to provide a great deal of structural strength as well as an external covering. All of the principle elements of the internal section of a jet plane are attached to it. Therefore, the rolled metalwork that makes the fuselage must be processed with a great deal of attention to detail if it is to be able to connect properly with things like the plane's floor and luggage compartment. So-called monocoque design planes rely on the shell of the aircraft to provide structural integrity. A semi-monocoque fuselage has a reinforcing framework behind it, but the principle remains the same – the fuselage's structure is integral to the design of the plane.
As mentioned, sheet metalwork is commonly used these days to form the basis of a plane's fuselage. Rolled into circular sections, lightweight but extremely durable metals are chosen for the job. A fine example of this would be aluminium which many modern planes are made from. In the early days of aviation, wood or even canvas might have been used but neither provided the required durability. Remember that fuselage must withstand stresses cause from a plane's own jet engines forcing it through the air, but also from physical objects it might come into contact with, such as hail or bird strikes.
Contemporary aircraft designers must also consider the materials they use for fuselage these days. Some aircraft designs rely on new materials, like graphite epoxy polymers. However, these cannot always be satisfactorily recycled into new products once the fuselage has come to the end of its working life. This is in contrast to sheet metal materials, like titanium and aluminium, which are often reworked into new components, including new sections of fuselage from time-to-time.Share