Fight and Flight

The forces of flight are an intense challenge for aircraft design – weight, drag and turbulence work simultaneously to stress the design and structure of the airframe.

Sure, the engine, wings, stabilizers, and rudder contribute to an aircraft's ability to sustain flight. But it’s the often unrecognized center wingbox that gives the jet its strength, absorbing stress of flight and serving as the primary load-carrying structure for the wings. If the engine is the heart of a jet, then the wingbox is the spine connecting the skeletal system and supporting it, forming the structural center of the aircraft and providing strength and support to all other jet elements.

"The wingbox is an integral part of the fuselage itself because it carries the load of the wings and the engines,” said Joseph Birch, commercial director for ATI Specialty Rolled Products, which produces high performance materials for the demanding conditions of aerospace. 

Wingboxes hold it all together – literally – thanks to key components fabricated from our high-performance titanium alloys including ATI 6-4™ and specialty stainless steels including ATI 15-5™ and other high strength alloys. The unique properties of these materials provide unparalleled strength, safety, and stability for every flight, every time. 

Corrosion-resistant, low-density ATI 6-4™ titanium yields a high strength-to-weight alloy, making it the material of choice for the harshest conditions. Its combination of strength, durability, and corrosion resistance provide a cost-effective edge over other materials. (That’s reassuring when you’re cruising at 600 mph at an altitude of 40,000 feet, in chilly -71 °F / 22° C conditions.) Despite being significantly lighter than steel, this alloy possesses comparable tensile strength, allowing for the forging of robust attachments, without adding unnecessary weight to the wingbox. 

ATI 15-5™ precipitation hardening stainless steel was designed to maintain extreme temperatures up to 600 °F and has greater toughness than many other high strength steels. The utilization of this specialty steel to fabricate a jet’s wingbox and many other structural applications contribute to a smooth ride, safely supporting the entire aircraft structure and withstanding even the most turbulent environments. “ATI 15-5™ is a unique alloy for this type of application due to its high strength, toughness and machineability. This is important for impact resistance & load carry,” Birch said. “We’re one of the few metals producers that can produce both alloys, and our advanced melting techniques allow us to produce superior product uniformity. We’re truly a one stop shop for everything.” 

At ATI, our focus on precision extends beyond the production of our materials – even our processes provide immediate and long-term value to our end customers. “We have the ability to move up the value chain and provide near net shape parts. Instead of sending a big, thick plate that requires multiple machining, we produce a close-to-final product,” said Birch. “It’s one more example of how we’re solving our customers’ challenges.”
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