Understanding Aircraft Antennae

Aircraft communication systems, navigation components, and data devices all rely on the functioning capabilities of antennae. Without the existence of antennas, aircraft would have a much harder time functioning. Modern aircraft such as the Boeing 787 are constructed with more than 20 antennae that extend from the fuselage, cockpit, wings, and tail. Aircraft are becoming more interconnected with advancements in technology, specifically, antennas.

With antennas being located on the exterior of the aircraft, they are more susceptible to wear and tear. Antenna repair and maintenance is critical to the successful operation of an aircraft. These repairs fall into three different categories: electrical, mechanical, and cosmetic repair. Electronic repairs involve a failed device that may have been removed during a troubleshooting sequence. An antenna is deemed functional by measuring how much power is radiating off the device. Mechanical failures occur when the antenna is bumped or strikes another object.

These objects can include trolleys, ground servicing equipment, lifts, and even birds. These bumps lead to cracks in the fasteners of the antenna, or the antenna itself. Repairing this type of damage may involve physically intervening in the structure of the antenna, potentially affecting its efficiency. If this occurs, an anechoic chamber can be used for testing; a costly and time-consuming process. In comparison, cosmetic damage is when the antenna suffers chipped paint or discoloration.

Cosmetic damage is common in antennas. As the aircraft is in flight, ice and water from the slipstream have a high probability of causing corrosion. The paint used on antennas must be extremely calibrated and specialized. Lightning strikes are another type of external damage an antenna may face. The harsh environment that these antennae are exposed to becomes an issue.

Antennas also provide satellite communications, marker beacons, weather radars, radio navigation technology, and many more functions. The aforementioned Boeing 787 features antennas for its landing instruments, air traffic control, traffic collision avoidance systems, and many other functions. Proper maintenance and routine inspections should be practiced ensuring its longevity.


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