Sky high: load cells in military and civil aircraft

Published On: July 17 2018


The Farnborough International Airshow 2018 roars into action this month, a spectacular display of flying skills, precision engineering and molecule-rearranging engine noise! And we’d lay a bet that very few of the planes in the skies above the Hampshire town would be up there without load cells playing a part somewhere along the line.


Load cells in aerospace and aviation

Load cells are used extensively in the aeronautics industry at four key stages:

  1. Design and build
  2. Pre-flight testing
  3. In-flight monitoring
  4. Force control

1. Design and build

From the moment a new aircraft moves from CAD to build, load cells will be used to test components for criteria such as strength, force endurance, longevity and more. From seat belts to flaps, a vast range of standard design load cells will test and test again.

2. Pre-flight testing

Every aircraft must meet specific criteria before leaving the hanger. Load cells can be used to test key elements such as the integrity of its frame. The use of load cells in structural and fatigue testing helps validate aircraft and meet important criteria.

3. In-flight monitoring

The forces exerted on an aircraft’s frame in flight can be monitored using load cells to check critical bolts and pins on the airframe.

4. Force control

Load cells play a key role in the monitoring of the aircraft’s flight control system. This includes measuring the force applied to the control stick by the pilot. This force is just one of many key data recordings stored in the Flight Data Recorder, or “Black Box”.


The chosen few

Load cells are even used during in-flight refuelling. It takes a special breed of load cell to be stuck on the end of a refuelling boom, thousands of feet in the air, travelling at speed, in the cold, and still function perfectly normally!


The best tools for the job

Load cells can collect the data required validate aircraft components, products or even the whole aircraft itself.Their benefits include:

• Robust Design

Load cells can be built tough, to withstand the varying conditions they will encounter in aerospace applications including:

• g-forces

• vibrations

• temperature fluctuations

• humidity fluctuations

• chemicals

• physical impacts

As a white paper by Honeywell Int. says;

“Load cells are typically encased by all-metal construction to protect the sensor from harsh environmental conditions or operating environments, without degrading the sensing capabilities. As a result, key operating parameters and performance are maintained.”

• Long-lasting

The best quality load cells are built to last through multiple test cycles over a considerable period of time without the load cell structure being affected by fatigue.

• Redundancy

Redundancy can be built into the design of load cells, important when the mechanical integrity of aircraft systems needs to be maintained as a back-up option.

• Less than ideal conditions

Load cells can compensate for a variety of less than ideal conditions for testing, such as uneven or off-center loading.

• Sensitivity

Pilots still fly by touch to some extent. Load cells in key pilot/plane interfaces such as throttle, wheel and pedal linkages give the pilot direct feedback and accurate data to both the black box recorder and aircraft throttle controls.


Load cells for your testing requirements

Whatever your testing and monitoring requirements, whether high in the air or deep underwater, call us. Our load cells can withstand a range of challenging environments, or just sit on a nice clean bench in your test facility!

Call us for new and replacement load cells, or ask us about our recalibration services. Our prices are very down to earth too!