Episode 491 - "Circle of Flight"

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Episode 491 - "Circle of Flight"

Postby jarheadpilot82 » Sun Jan 19, 2020 12:42 pm

I was listening with great interest the discussion concerning welding of aircraft fuselages, aluminum welding, MIG, TIG, stick welding, etc. and thought I would chime in. Dave is correct that aluminum is very difficult to weld due to the ability of heat to alter aluminum's characteristics, but it might be worth mentioning that there have been at least two stainless steel aircraft that were built through the use of spot welding - The Budd Conestoga as well as the Fleetwings Sea Bird -



I would also chime in that Dave is not entirely correct when he inferred that chromoly in aircraft should only be gas welded and that electric welding (or for that matter, stick welding) is not nor should not be used. At least that is the way I understood his premise to be. If that is the case then American industry got it wrong during World War II as all B-17 engine mounts were stick welded. Look in the background of the picture linked below.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/ ... 195478.jpg

Aeronca must have gotten it wrong in the 1930's and early 40's as their airframes were all stick welded. MIG welding was not commercially viable until 1948, and TIG welding was not commercially viable until the late 40's and early 1950's. Today all RANS aircraft fuselages are MIG welded. Every Maule fuselage that has ever been produced has been MIG welded. So there are definitely viable methods of welding chromoly besides gas. TIG is the go to method today due to its ability to control the heat better than gas, but gas, MIG, as well as TIG are used on chromoly with excellent airworthy results, when done correctly.

Although there have not been any aluminum aircraft that I know of built solely by welding, definitely aircraft parts have. The next time you go out to the airport, go look at the corrugated aluminum-covered ailerons on a Cessna. Those are not rivet heads that you see (unless the aileron has been damaged and repaired in the field). You are looking at spot welds. Cessna went to (I think) Hobart and had a machine designed specifically to do that job at the factory. so spot welds are used on sub-assemblies of aluminum aircraft parts.

I would love to tell you that I am a welder, but I am not. I am building a steel tube fuselage Pietenpol Air Camper, and in doing so I have studied the subject to a great degree, done some limited welding of small parts but have primarily utilized the services of excellent welders like William Wynne of FlyCorvair.net (if you want to see some great videos discussing aircraft welding, I would encourage you look at his FlyCorvair YouTube channel and videos such as this one - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=crD838omvoM). He has forgotten more about aircraft welding than I will ever know.
Semper Fi,

Terry Hand
Athens, GA

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