April 23, 2018

Aviation Pyramid

Aviation is a vast industry.

Stating that it is the widest industry would not be wrong.

Although we see only the planes themselves as passengers, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

So, who are there and what's under the iceberg?

A large number of different engineers and producers are involved in the production of any aircraft. Airbus and Boeing, many of whom knows commonly as the manufacturer of the planes, do not actually produce the entire plane. This includes very large and important parts such as aircraft engines and landing gear. The application of the supplier industry in Civil Aviation is much more than the size of the final product.

Airbus and Boeing own branded vehicles that are no different from other industries. They are getting a lot of parts they use on their planes from sub-contractors. In this sense, it makes sense to define planes as Lego. So much so that the same piece can be found on both Boeing and Airbus aircraft.

Starting from the simplest components on the base, the heavy metal industry is of course the first to come up in a scenario where we are going up. Manufacturers of aluminum, titanium and steel alloys form the main body of the aircraft, the critical components of the wing and tail, and the production of the landing gear and engines, which are expected to be very robust.

It is envisaged that the composite materials that have recently started to be applied will take place in the near future of the heavy metal industry. Composites have indispensable presets for planes because they can provide the same strength with a lighter weight than metals. However, there are many points where they cannot take the place of metals because of production difficulties, prices and heat resistance.

Fasteners, such as rivets, screws, bolts, washers, etc., which are necessary for the next step of assembling the metals. As a matter of fact, planes have to have a lot of curved and rounded lines to be aerodynamic. The production of such curves by durable metals is possible only by combining many small parts. This explains the importance of fasteners. Apart from the fasteners, a lot of supplemental elements such as pipes, elbows, clamps, cables, sockets, plugs, etc., allow individual components to turn into a working system.

Plastics and textiles are also used as raw materials in terms of the materials produced. We all very well know textiles and plastics. The only exception for aviation is the use of the lightest and most flame-resistant variants.

In the following stage, assembling of the ready-made elements provided by other producers is starting. A number of sub-parts, such as actuators, pneumatic & electrical motors, rods, gears, gearboxes, pulleys, manifolds, are assembled appropriately. Everything goes to this stage for the basic design elements of the plane and it is used on all the airplanes.

Later on, the computers, known as avionics (aviation electronics), signage, displays and encodings that allow different systems to create systems which communicate with each other. Decorative elements, seats, toilets and kitchen equipment belonging to the interior design of the plane are supplied from subsidiaries and installed on the plane. At this stage, the customer now has the right to choose the materials to be used. Manufacturers offer brand, model and number preferences. The industry is called the BFE (buyer furnished equipment) in this context. Parts such as carpets, curtains, lighting, entertainment systems are also included in this group.

In the next upper and final group, there are also parts belonging to the landing gear and auxiliary power unit (a little spare engine) which are provided in all the planes and supplied from different manufacturers. Although the plane's engines are included in this group, the customers have the option of choosing an engine with different type and power, just like on the cars.

Airplanes that we are guests as passengers are the products that result from the superposition of all these layers. So if we think of the aviation industry as an iceberg (or pyramid), the planes are the tip of this very large, multidisciplinary structure.