Aerospace & Aviation Bearings

by Kevin Sweeney
02 March, 2023
4 min read

Over six million passengers board roughly 100,000 flights in countries throughout the world daily. Bearings are used extensively in aircraft applications and must conform to strict standards.  

Consider the Boeing 747-8, introduced in 2005 and having a maximum take-off weight of 987,000 pounds. The 747-8 can carry a fuel load of 422,000 pounds, allowing it to fly nearly 8,000 nautical miles without refueling. The amount of force to lift this metal tube with wings and fly like a bird is nothing short of miraculous and it would not be possible without exceptionally reliable and capable aircraft-rated bearings.

There are a select few companies that are manufacturing aerospace and aviation bearings. Accepted for their quality, Pacific International Bearing Company represents manufacturers such as BARDEN, NMB, NHBB, NTN, SKF, SCHATZ, AURORA, ACCURATE BUSHING/SMITH, GGB/GARLOCK, and RBC to name a few. These world class manufacturers provide the types of bushings and bearings used in many aviation and aerospace applications. Below are three categories for aerospace bearings. 

Airframe Control Ball Bearings  

PIB offers a full line of RBC airframe control ball bearings. RBC airframe control ball bearings conform to SAE-AS7949 specifications. RBC Airframe Control bearings are lightweight, corrosion-resistant, grease-lubricated, and are sealed on most occasions. They come in precision grades for running accuracy.  

PIB offers RBC airframe control bearings in both standard and precision series. Airframe control bearing components are manufactured using AISI 52100 or AISI 440C. Bearing bore is plated for protection from corrosion. The AISI 440C material can be passivated or plated with zinc-nickel or cadmium to further prevent corrosion. 

RBC airframe control bearings are designed with high quality controls; however, these bearings can often be used in many standard industrial applications. RBC airframe control bearings are applied in any application where oscillatory movement, high loads, and corrosion exist. 

RBC airframe control bearings are designed with high quality controls; however, these bearings can often be used in many standard industrial applications. RBC airframe control bearings are applied in any application where oscillatory movement, high loads, and corrosion exist. 

Airframe Control Ball Bearings 

Aircraft Bearings  

Aircraft bearings are designed to be lightweight and must be corrosion resistant. Aircraft bearings are used in flight control, actuators, gearboxes, flap mechanisms, stabilizers, and landing gear. Companies like SKF are advancing many new bearing material technologies offering more solutions for optimal designs. PIB offers a variety of options for self-lubricating, elastomeric, metal to metal, ceramic, and lighter weight materials. Thin section bearings of special designs provide ideal solutions for aircraft bearing applications. 

Space Bearings  

Space bearings operating under vacuum are used in mission-critical applications. Space bearings are used in satellites, radar systems, vehicles such as the Mars Rover, reaction wheels, robotic arms, indexing, optical imaging, and gimbal instruments.  

Aerospace Bearings  

Some of the many other aerospace applications include bearings, bushings, and maintenance free plain bearings that are certified to the AS9100D quality standard for use in landing gear, flight controls, engines, and passenger seating applications. The full range of bearing applications in the aerospace industry include: 

  • Landing Gear: Struts, Actuators, Pivots  
  • Cockpit Controls  
  • Wing, Trailing Edge: Flaps, Spoilers  
  • Wing, Leading Edge: Slats  
  • Hydraulic Fuel Pumps  
  • Flight Control Systems: Aileron, Rudder, Elevator  
  • Electric Actuators  
  • Engine Components: Guide Vanes, Valves, Fuel Systems, Generators, Pumps  
  • Doors: Cargo, Passenger  
  • Aircraft Interiors: Seat Mechanisms, Overhead Baggage Compartments, Cargo Bay Floors, Latches, Hinges  
  • UAM (Urban Air Mobility)  

Garlock GGB Bearings

Garlock GGB Bearings used in aircraft seating  

In aerospace applications, the details matter because the smallest miscues in design can compromise performance and passenger safety.   

High-precision Aerospace bearings

NTN, SKF, BARDEN, and others manufacture a wide variety of bearings designed for use in generators, motors, starters, fuel pumps, oil pumps, and cabin superchargers.  

Precision engineered aerospace bearings are manufactured in the highest precision. Many bearing coatings are available along with special heat treatments. Common aerospace greases are MIL-PRF-81322 and MIL-PRF-23827. There are various greases and oils available for use in vacuum or low torque applications, including dry film lubricants such as Dicronite. Plating options available such as zinc-nickel or cadmium plating are commonly specified. The development of high-performance aerospace bearings evolved to meet technical developments and requirements.  

Many applications exist for high performance aerospace bearings to be applied in airplanes, helicopters, and aerospace engines.  

Jet Engine Bearings

Engine bearings are used on main shafts and reduction gears (auxiliary drive system). Sophisticated bearing technology was used to design and manufacture main shaft bearings that can operate in high-speed and high-temperature conditions. When you are flying on a 747 or 737, know that the main shaft bearings are of the highest quality and are designed to provide the maximum performance required of jet engine bearings.  

The elite bearing manufacturing companies supplying aerospace and aviation bearings are manufactured and approved to U.S. government standards controlled by AS7949 (formerly MIL-B-7949). Those bearing companies that manufacture standard and custom products made in the USA must comply with DFARS clauses 225-7001, 225-7009, 225-7016, and/or ITAR regulations on request. These bearings manufacturers must also be AS9100 registered.  

Boeing has standards that many of the manufacturers meet and or exceed to be approved for use in Boeing applications. 

Military and Defense supplier adventages

DFARS Compliance  

Military and Defense buyers look for DFARS (Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement) compliance when ordering standard and/or customer bearing designs.  

According to the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), managed by the Department of Defense (DOD), the typical bearing DFARS clauses are:

  • 225-7001 Buy American and Balance of Payments  
  • 225-7009 Restriction on Acquisition of Certain Articles Containing Specialty Metals  
  • 225-7016 Restriction on Acquisition of Ball and Roller Bearings  

These clauses must be met to be in accordance with the DFARS requirements. This set of restrictions about the origination of raw materials is intended to protect the US defense industry from being too dependent on foreign sources of supply.

All Pacific International Bearings aerospace bearings manufacturers divisions provide documented and aerospace-approved quality programs. All aerospace bearing companies are ISO 9001 and AS9100 certified. Bearing manufacturers are NADCAP accredited in-house for non-destructive testing, heat treatment, welding, special processes, or are using NADCAP accredited sourcing.  

PIB bearing manufacturing companies have traceability processes for their manufacturing locations including a procedure for preserving the identity and origin of their products. These bearing companies can isolate and recall products while tracing the failure of its manufacturing lot. That is why aerospace bearings for rocket turbo pumps and jet engines on airplanes require an extremely prominent level of technology.

Still have a question or need to discuss something? Contact us to get help.

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Written by

Kevin Sweeney

Founder and CEO at Pacific International Bearing Sales Inc (PIB)
Education: BS Business and Economics California State University Hayward Ca
CBS (Certified Bearing Specialist)

My role with Pacific International Bearings (PIB) is currently CEO. Since 1976, I have been deeply involved in the bearing industry, working in manufacturing sales at NTN Bearing and subsequently in Bearing Distribution. Before establishing PIB in 1990, I gathered valuable experience in bearing manufacturing and distribution. The last 45 + years in the bearing industry have been both rewarding and challenging, assisting customers across a large number of diverse bearing applications.
Outside of the bearing industry, my interests are family, woodworking, motorcycling, cars, gardening, and golf.
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