When constructing aircraft, rubber and sealant components are critical for ensuring that no fluids are able to enter or escape assemblies and structures. When sealing the fuel tank or similar structures, seals are implemented at the joints and rivets of the assembly in order to prevent leaking. As such materials are designed to withstand high amounts of heat, they provide ample protection for the aircraft throughout their service lives. Due to the importance that such aircraft sealant components play, understanding their functionality and how to properly install them can be useful for anyone operating or maintaining such assemblies.
Typically, tank sealants may be discerned by two important characteristics, those of which are viscosity and application time. Depending on the viscosity of the particular aircraft sealant, it may be used for home-built aircraft tanks, require gun sealant pressure for installation, or be intended to roll or brush on faying surfaces. With each aircraft sealant type, the application and cure times may differ drastically. Once the standard application time of a sealant material has passed, the sealant loses its ability to adhere to a surface properly and thus cannot be installed correctly. If one is procuring MIL spec rubber and sealant parts, application times generally range from a half an hour to four hours. Additionally, there are even sealant kits that are capable of curing more rapidly than standard types, allowing for a quicker installation.
When procuring aircraft sealants for a particular operation, there are also a variety of methods in which such seals may be packaged and transported. Generally, sealants are shipped through individual containers, pre-filled tubes, and jar kits. With individual containers, the amount of rubber packaged could range anywhere from a half a pint to 50 gallons. If one needs a smaller amount that can be used alongside gun sealant pressure equipment, jar kits and pre-filled tubes can be the most useful due to their offered sizes.
As it comes time to begin the application process for rubber and sealant materials, there are some things to be aware of for proper installation. For one, aircraft sealant materials are strong adhesives, and thus they will quickly stick to anything that their sticky side comes into contact with. As such, mechanics should wear latex gloves while applying such materials to aircraft surfaces. Because aircraft sealants are specifically designed to be robust, it can also be useful to wear older clothing as trying to remove cured sealants from certain fabrics may prove more trouble than it is worth. For any sealant that accidentally gets on an unintended surface, having cleaning rags and solvent on hand can be highly beneficial for maintaining a clean environment.
Before installing the sealant kit, the surface should be thoroughly cleaned to remove any debris or contamination that might affect the strength of the seal. If there are fasteners present, oil should be removed as well. Once ready, the sealant can be measured and applied in thin layers to a surface for sealing. As the sealant is applied, even pressure should be given so that there are no air bubbles, openings, or faults in which a leakage may occur. If there is extra sealant coming out of the sides, solvent and rags may be used to clean it away.
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