Aircraft manufacturers, repair companies, refurbishers and restorers cannot purchase necessary raw materials from a box store or a typical metal supplier. Due to strength to weight requirements, low friction properties and temperature variations all compel the use of specialized alloys.
Normal aircraft flight operation can place great stress on an airframe, seams and joints. Speeds of several hundred miles per hour add enormous friction to the frame and can heat metals to several hundred degrees.
At the same time, higher altitudes will experience subfreezing temperatures and the temperature variations from hot to cold can stress normal metals. Heavy head winds, ice and hail will test the tensile strength of the strongest metals.
But besides strength and durability, the material needs to be light enough to make the aircraft aerodynamic and fuel efficient. If the materials used prove to be too heavy, available engines will prove to be inefficient and more expensive to operate.
Due to this long list of factors, aluminum, magnesium and titanium are the typical metals of choice for aircraft construction, with aluminum being the most cost effective. But in their raw form, these materials aren’t sufficient to meet the highest standards and provide the best metal available. Special alloys with the addition of other materials is needed to create the best aircraft metal.
2219 Aluminum is a special alloy containing 90 to 94 percent aluminum, five to seven percent copper, along with trace amounts of magnesium, titanium, silicon and zirconium. The alloy provides higher strength and less ductility. When the temperature is subzero, as it is in normal aircraft flight altitudes, the alloy becomes stronger. These properties make it a highly desired for airframe construction.
Those looking for special metal alloys will seek out a supplier with a track history for reliability and providing a quality product. Meticulous adherence to ASTM standards is a must with such a supplier, as is a multi point inspection process during the forging stage. The standards to be met require vast technical knowledge and experience to create.
The better suppliers, due to their experience and technical expertise in the metal alloy area, may also offer additional services to their customers. These services may include machine milling, metal polishing, heat treatment and surface priming. These services coming from a single supplier provides a more complete material when it is delivered to the manufacturer and can eliminate a number of steps in their production process.
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