One of the most important components to making flying safe is the actuator, a “mover” that uses a control signal and power source in order to move and control a mechanism or system. They play a vital role in flight and control, ensuring safety of the aircraft and passengers. In the case of aircraft actuators, they are used in landing gear, flaps— and, in the military, weapons systems.
Landing gear actuators are used to provide the retraction and extension motion for the landing gear located at the bottom of the fuselage. Originally, airplanes were fitted with hydraulic actuators, however, many companies are beginning to transition to electric actuators for better technology and more reliability. Because these actuators are located very close to the ground while the airplane is moving at high speeds, they have to be able to withstand high-pressure up to at least 5,000 psi and be built very strong to resist damage caused by debris kicked up by the wheels. But, because weight matters, landing gear actuators are usually made from lightweight materials.
Aircraft flap actuators, also known as “flap actuators”, are located on each aircraft wing and used to maintain efficient flight at low airspeeds. They’re mounted with a rotating screw that allows the flap to move up and down accordingly. On larger aircraft, there are retractable flap actuators placed on the outside edge of the wing in order to change the effective surface area of the airfoil and counteract the lack of lift generated at lower airspeeds.
Weapons systems also use linear actuators to ensure reliability. In combat, fighter jets need to be able to consistently open the bay doors to access the weapons. If the doors don’t open, or they jam, they could lose their lives. So, fighter jets use electric and hydraulic actuators equipped with sensors and stop modules to ensure reliability and safe use.