Aluminum plays a vital role in the construction of aircraft. Its high resistance to corrosion and good weight to strength to cost ratio makes it the perfect material for aircraft construction. But the one property that makes aluminum the ideal metal for aircraft construction is its resistance to UV damage.
Some of the aircraft-grade aluminum alloys include:
Grade 2024-T3 is the most common high-strength aluminum alloy. It is often considered aircraft quality. It has excellent fatigue resistance even though its corrosion resistance is lower than that of 6061. This aluminum alloy sheet is commonly used to make the fuselage, wing skins, aircraft structure, and cowls of most airplanes. It's also ideal for repairs and restoration because it has a shiny finish.
This alloy is best known for its high corrosion resistance and finish. It is easy to weld and has almost the same strength as mild steel. Grade 6061-T6 is often used to make landing mats for aircraft, truck bodies, and frames as well as structural components. It can be fabricated using the most common techniques which is an excellent property.
5052 – H32
5052-H32 is a non-heat treatable aluminum alloy and has one of the highest strengths in its class. It is not structural but has high fatigue strength compared to other alloys. It also possesses excellent corrosion resistance, particularly in marine applications. Its excellent workability makes this aluminum sheet ideal for the construction of fuel tanks.
This aluminum sheet has great workability and is one of the most widely used aluminum alloys. It is made from a blend of pure aluminum and manganese. This sheet is also non-heat treatable but can be deep drawn, welded, spun, or brazed. It's perfect for making cowls in aircraft and baffle plating.
The primary role of this aluminum alloy is to strengthen aluminum aircraft structures. The alloy is made from a careful mixture of copper, magnesium, and zinc to give it extra strength. However, because of copper, it is difficult but not impossible to weld. Once anodized, it has a beautiful finish and has the best machinability.
In addition to aircraft applications, aluminum is also used in spacecraft. Its unique properties are of even more value in this application. Most spacecraft are made of up to 90% aluminum components. The material is also used in making space stations like the Skylab and is expected to make even more appearances in manned space exploration.