The name aircraft cable can be very confusing, especially if you are a novice. Although the name says aircraft, this wire rope often gets used outside the aerospace industry. Yes, you can use it to hold a plane in position. But you can also use it in boats and docking, securing cargo, stage rigging, and winching, among other things.

In fact, airplane cable is one of the most used wire ropes around the globe. The global aircraft wire and cable market was worth $1.5 billion in 2021. It is likely to reach $1.9 billion by 2026, at a CAGR of 5.7%, during the forecast period of 2022 to 2026. 

Chances are you will also use aircraft cable at some point. So, it’s better to know everything you can about it. Let’s start with the basics.

What Is an Aircraft Cable?

As mentioned before, the name aircraft cable can be misleading. Yes, airline cable gets used on and around airplanes. But it has a lot more to offer when it comes to lifting and rigging applications, even in harsh environments.

Airplane cable is a wire rope consisting steel wires stranded together, usually between 8 and 28. These stands form a strong and flexible airline cable. As a result, they are used in different applications, including control cables, rigging, and suspension systems.

However, it is also important to use high-quality aircraft cable hardware, such as fittings, turnbuckles, shackles, thimbles, and connectors, to ensure reliability and safety during lifting and rigging applications. after all, you don’t want the airline cable to snap, resulting in extensive damage to your cargo, injuries to your crew, and maybe worse.

But most importantly, ensure your airline cable meets the strict industry standards. It should also undergo rigorous testing to be able to withstand the required stress. Also, never cross the working load limit of any cable.

Aircraft Cable Strength Is Exceptional

You can find these cables in wing flaps, landing gear, and seat back controls, among other parts of an airplane. But it also gets used outside of the aerospace industry. The cable is popular in heavy-duty applications due to its strength.

 The aircraft cable strength is exceptional even when used for strenuous application in harsher weather conditions. Usually, the galvanized steel aircraft cable strength is higher than that of stainless steel.

Different Types of Aircraft Cable Finishes

Aircraft cable wires have to endure harsh environments, which can lead to corrosion and wear over time. Different finishes are applied to the cable surfaces to protect them and extend their lifespan. One common finish is galvanization, where the cable is coated with a layer of zinc to prevent corrosion. 

In most cases, you should coat the aircraft cable hardware, such as turnbuckles and shackles, with similar finishes to protect against corrosion and wear. Choosing the right finish for aircraft cable wires and hardware is critical to maintaining the integrity and safety of the aircraft and your rigging applications.

Most aircraft cable suppliers will sell these aircraft cable wires in four finishes. They are galvanized cable, stainless steel cable (also called aircraft steel cable), vinyl-coated galvanized rope, and vinyl-coated stainless steel rope.

1. Galvanized Aircraft Cable

This cable is stronger than stainless steel airplane cable. It offers moderate corrosion resistance but remains ductile for a long time.

2. Stainless Steel Aircraft Cable

Although a little less strong than galvanized airplane cable, it offers excellent corrosion resistance. These cables are more suited for marine applications, where they get exposed to saltwater and high humidity.

3. Vinyl Coated Galvanized Aircraft Cable

This cable offers durability, flexibility, and moderate resistance to corrosion. It is best suited for indoor applications.

4. Vinyl Coated Stainless Steel Aircraft Cable

As you can imagine, this cable provides additional corrosion and abrasion resistance. It also offers high flexibility but less aircraft cable strength than its galvanized variant.

Understanding Common Applications of Aircraft Cable

Unlike the name suggests, aircraft cable gets used in applications outside of the aerospace industry. And the exceptional aircraft cable strength makes it ideal for strenuous applications, especially in harsh environments. Here are a few common uses.

1. Aircraft Control

Stainless steel aircraft cable gets used in moving and shipping aircraft. On the other hand, galvanized cable is found in airplane seats, landing gear, and wing flaps.

2. Docking and Boats

Stainless steel aircraft cable is an excellent choice for all docking and boat applications. It is flexible and resistant to corrosion.

3. Fitness Equipment

Airplane cable often gets used in fitness equipment such as weight machines. You can use either stainless steel or galvanized cables for this application.

4. Garage Doors

Garage door pulleys (raising and lowering mechanisms) often use aircraft cable due to their strength.

5. Securing Cargo

Galvanized aircraft cables often get used to secure cargo, especially heavy shipments. The stainless steel cable offers good corrosion resistance in saltwater and high humidity.

6.  Stage Rigging

You will also see airplane cables in stage rigging. You can use them to suspend and raise lighting, handle curtains, and even move backdrops.

7. Wincing and Pulleys

Aircraft cable offers strength and flexibility, making it suitable for almost all rigging, overhead lifting, and hoisting applications. You can use either stainless or galvanized steel cable based on your application.

8. Ziplines

Usually, Ziplines are used for recreational purposes. Both stainless steel and galvanized cables get used as Ziplines. They are strong enough to support the weight of a person.

How to Inspect Aircraft cable

Although aircraft cable is durable and corrosion-resistant, it needs regular maintenance. Maintenance increases its lifespan and reduces the risk of potential accidents. Aircraft steel cable is an essential component of any aircraft, and its safety and integrity cannot be compromised. It is vital to inspect the aircraft cable wire regularly to ensure that it is in good condition and capable of performing its intended function.

So, be sure to inspect the cable before each use. It’s a simple visual inspection. Check the aircraft cable for broken strands. Check even the hidden parts of the cable for potential damage. These are visible signs of damage, such as kinks, frayed strands, or corrosion. These can weaken the aircraft steel cable and reduce its strength, so any damaged areas should be replaced or repaired immediately.

You can run a cotton cloth over the length of the wires. It’s the easiest and best way to check it for broken strands. If the cable has broken strands, the cloth will get snagged. Make sure to wear protective gloves when inspecting the aircraft cable.

Next, check the cable’s tension by applying a load and measuring the deflection. An aircraft cable that is too loose or too tight can cause problems. Finally, inspect the aircraft cable hardware, such as fittings and turnbuckles, for signs of wear or damage. These parts are crucial for keeping the cable securely in place. So, if there are any issues, address them promptly.

How to Swage Aircraft Cable

One more thing you need to know is how to swage aircraft cable. Swaging is a technique used to attach aircraft cable hardware securely. Swaging helps prevent the wire rope from fraying and improves its straightness. Also, the smoother end can easily slide over pulleys and inside sleeves.

Swaging involves using special tools to compress the cable and the hardware together, creating a permanent and robust connection. There are different tools available to swage cables correctly. The most cost-effective and easy-to-use tools are manual plier types. But you can also get battery-operated hydraulic swaging tools.

Remember, swaging is a necessary part of putting together aircraft cable hardware. However, you must always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and safety guidelines. Moreover, ensure that your cable and hardware are compatible for the best results. In case of any doubts, contact your aircraft cable supplier to find a suitable tool.

Where to Buy Aircraft Cable

As you already know, aircraft steel cable gets used in strenuous applications under harsh weather conditions. It’s going to be a significant investment. You will need to find a trusted aircraft cable supplier who can help you make the right purchase without breaking the bank.

When looking for an aircraft cable supplier, consider the following factors.

  • Expertise in your target niche
  • Ease of communication
  • Pricing and financing options (if needed)
  • Ethical compliance with OSHA, ASME, etc.
  • Streamlined purchase process
  • Well-stocked inventory
  • On-time and cost-effective shipping
  • Accountability

Your Go-To Aircraft Cable Supplier

You can use aircraft cable for a variety of applications. It is flexible, strong, and corrosion-resistant. Hopefully, this post will help you understand what it is, where to use it, how to swage aircraft cable, and how to find a reliable aircraft cable supplier.

Are you looking for high-quality aircraft cable? You have come to the right place. Elite Sales is a leading supplier in Houston, Tampa, Miami, and Dyer. With a well-stocked inventory, you can readily find the airplane cable you need along with other industrial hardware.