There are an estimated 320 miles of cabling and wires on the Airbus A380. Of course, passengers don’t see any of these cables as they are bundled up and discreetly hidden behind seat covers, overhead compartments, and concealed within galley space. This extensive system of wires connects more or less every aspect of the aircraft together. The entertainment system, electrical appliances in the galley, and the electronic equipment in the cockpit all rely upon the interconnectivity of various cables and wires. There are different types of cables each with their capabilities and uses. This blog will detail some of the most common types of wires and cables found in aircraft.
Ethernet cables are standard wires that connect computers to a network. They are designed to connect two different devices and aide communication between the two. A key benefit of using ethernet cables is the stable internet connection they provide. Ethernet cables are used for local area network (LAN) applications and data transmission aboard aircraft. In-Flight Entertainment (IFE) is becoming a standard on commercial aircraft. Ethernet cables are used to deliver the high-speed internet connection needed to supply each seat screen.
Fiber optic communication transmit information from one place to another by sending pulses of light through an optical fiber that is marginally thicker than a strand of human hair. Hundreds of thousands of optical fibers are arranged in bundles in optical cables. These cables are protected by an outer layer called a jacket. Fiber optic cables can carry much more information in less time over longer distances than regular copper wire. Bandwidth, the amount of data that can be distributed in a fixed amount of time, is often used as a measure of efficiency for cables. Fiber optics are popular due to their large bandwidth.
Aircraft are increasingly vulnerable to electromagnetic interference (EMI), which is a disturbance generated by an external source through electromagnetic induction. Filter lines are used in military aircraft to protect against EMI. They protect the signals that the pilots want to receive from his input to control surface without allowing the energy from an external source to interfere.
Though wires and cables are important components of an aircraft, manufacturers are always looking for ways to reduce the amount of cables used or their combined weight. The ongoing trend on aircraft is to take away weight wherever possible. Cables such as fiber optics are popular because they are lightweight. Aircraft technology is constantly evolving therefore requiring rewiring procedures. Maintenance programs such as Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) are aimed at reusing existing wires rather than adding new wires in costly overhaul services. Though not visible to passengers, the system of cables and wires within an aircraft is complex with the maintenance and management being imperative to the working condition of the aircraft. It is no wonder therefore they are often referred to as the nerves of the aircraft.
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