Aircraft testing in the time of COVID

Published On: April 24 2020


It may seem incredible, but according to plane spotters, there was a moment this week when there were NO aeroplanes flying over the UK (well, no commercial flights anyway). We’ve certainly noticed far less activity in the skies. So, given that most flights are grounded, what are aircraft manufacturers doing?

Boom Supersonic were nearing completion of XB-1, their 1:3 scale prototype of their supersonic Overture airliner when the virus pandemic hit. For now they have switched to producing face shield headbands for local hospitals, but the hanger is being disinfected ready for the return of the “build-essential team”, as Forbes describes them.

The company are developing supersonic passenger jets, inspired by Concorde but built with 21st century materials and technical know-how. They have raised over $150million in funding and have pre-orders worth around $6billion.


Load cells: your reliable wing man

So, where do load cells come in? All these new materials need thorough testing, and computer simulations can’t do it all. For example, strain gauges are used to measure stresses and strains on the high-tech skin covering the wings. The ultimate aim is to fly passengers at speeds of up to Mach 2.2, at air fares costs comparable to business class on conventional aircraft.

You can take a spin around the aircraft here


More load cells in aircraft testing

There’s nothing new in using load cells in testing aircraft; they have been the measurement tool of choice for decades. A White Paper by Honeywell, the snappily titled “Load cell use in aerospace ground and flight test applications” is a goldmine of information on when and how to use load cells in a variety of testing situations.

As the paper’s introduction says:

“(Load cells) are typically installed in-line with the force being applied to an assembly or system. Knowing these force measurements can be of beneficial use for various aerospace application requirements: from research and development to in-flight test, ground test, or even onboard aircraft measurements. Load measurements can be used for data test analysis, system monitoring, and/or control as part of a feedback loop.”


The white paper highlights four key areas for load cell use:

• Initial design and build stages:

  • Used to test generic components for
  • strength, force endurance levels, component longevity, etc.


• Pre-flight, structural and fatigue testing:

  • Testing for frame structure integrity, endurance and life cycles, to validate design and ensure crucial criteria are met.


• In-flight testing and monitoring:

  • To test and monitor airframe structural forces during in-flight testing.


• Flight-qualified force monitoring and control:

  • Monitoring of the flight control system, including pilot force input data sent to the Flight Data Recorder, or “Black Box.”


They can also be used in aircraft, spacecraft, and military applications, from monitoring the bolt fastening force to military planes parachute deployment, reduced gravity simulations, pedal force testing and measuring aircraft wing fatigue. They can also be used in testing of landing gear shear pin, fatigue and drop, and various situations requiring torque testing including brake, aircraft engines and even space station docking procedures.


How much does an aircraft weigh?

Load cells also play a crucial part in weighing commercial airliners when they have been modified or have new components fitted. For more details on this, see our ”Why weigh a plane?” article. And also “Load cells in military and civil aircraft”


Load cells for every testing requirement

Whether you’re testing a new supersonic plane or just want to know how much a safety car weights, we can help. We design and manufacture our own load cells right here in the UK. So. we’re unaffected by delays in international shipping, meaning you can have the load cells you need much more quickly. Call us with your requirements, or buy online anytime from our load cell shop.