Aircraft Wire Harness: How the Air Industry Evolved with Time

Electrical harnesses are a staple in modern electronics and the backbone of the auto industry.

Without it, the systems inside these machines wouldn’t be automatic.

However, technical progress has allowed the use of adaptable and robust wire harnesses useful in other complex industries, like the aerospace or aviation industry.

Let’s see how the aircraft wire harness evolved during the period and how they are used now.

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Innovations in Aircraft Technology 

Flying in today’s high-tech world may seem like a mundane experience, something that most of us experienced before.

However, airplane technology has progressed a lot thanks to its rich history.

When planes first took to the skies, aerodynamics was the key to getting from point A to point B.

Thermal airships, or hot air balloons, were the first aircraft to carry humans.

However, aerodynamics and motor technology advancements in the early 20th century made powered-controlled flights increasingly common.

Similar to modern airplanes, these early models were developed by 1909.

Aerospace engineering has advanced through the years, with more potent aircraft engines and new improvements in aircraft wiring harnesses.

Aircraft and the aviation sector, as it exists now, would not exist without the technological breakthroughs it has experienced.

At the same time, an aircraft wire harness serves the same primary function as any other wiring system and the innovations it has brought to the aerospace industry.

Caption: Hydraulic lines inside the aviation system

Why Do Aircraft Have Wiring Harnesses?

There was no such thing as a wiring harness in the early days of airplane development since electrical systems did not exist.

They had to move the flying control surfaces using only structural parts, ropes, and pulleys.

Metal cables soon replaced the ropes; even today, many planes don’t “fly by wire,” instead relying on cables and pulleys.

Eventually, an airplane designer decided to wire in a light and put in a switch, battery, and bulb.

He connected these parts with cables, creating the airplane’s first electrical lighting system.

Since this system only required a small number of wires, harness manufacturers put them individually in safe locations.

Subsequently, other architects came along and incorporated even more electrical infrastructures.

Aircraft mechanics eventually realized that they were installing cables one at a time despite groups of wires flowing from one part to another.

Moreover, they needed more wires for each additional device.

The duration of this setup process was lengthy.

Mechanics began grouping and routing cables together in bundles to increase productivity.

The aviation industry took notice and deemed this a worthwhile development.

After conceptualizing the wire bundles as a whole, they assembled them there.

With this, they created the first wire harness.

Aircraft wire harnesses serve this purpose.

Shot wire tubes inside the wall

Caption: Shot wire tubes inside the wall

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The Functionality of an Aircraft Wiring Harness

Similar to how a car’s harness directs electrical impulses, a plane’s wiring harness does the same for the complete aircraft.

The engine, landing gear, wings, and fuselage are only some of the functions it regulates.

Wire harnesses typically have a great deal going on inside of them.

Miles of cables, wires, and thousands of individual parts make up an airplane wiring harness.

In addition, they all have to function together to keep the plane flying smoothly.

Today’s aircraft manufacturers must also keep up with rapidly developing technologies and upgraded aircraft wiring connections to support cutting-edge additions.

In addition to improving efficiency in production and manufacturing, an aircraft wire harness also makes it easier for mechanics to identify and repair planes experiencing technical difficulties.

Wire harnesses eliminate the need to install the electronic systems of a humongous plane separately.

When problems arise and maintenance is required, mechanics must identify the affected component to fix it.

Three Categories of Parts in an Aircraft Wiring Harness

The aircraft you will put it in is a significant factor in determining the specific elements and components of the wiring harness when designing a plane that meets military specifications; there are many things that you have to take into account.

These are the three types of airplane components.

Standard Components

In a plane’s electrical system, the military will often have the final say over the components known as MIL-SPEC (military standard).

The letters M or MS appended to the beginning of the serial number designate them as a military issue.

Some are prefixed with the letters NAS to show that they conform to the National Aerospace Standard.

A few standard component prefixes exist, but these two are the most prevalent in a military plane’s wiring harness.

On the other hand, the military and many other aerospace sectors.

Nonetheless, the government must certify specific manufacturers before you can consider them as authorized suppliers.

Non-Standard Components

Non-standard components are frequently variants of commercially available components that meet a slightly different military standard.

Original equipment manufacturers can dictate the criteria for non-standard components (OEM).

Original Equipment Manufacturers also have the option to permit which of their suppliers to produce non-standard components.

However, the cost of a non-standard element for an airplane harness tends to be higher since so few exist.

Commercial, Off-the-Shelf Components (COTS)

Manufacturers mass-produce COTS components in response to market research and consumer demand.

The producer can improve the design of the components without permission from the government or the defense.

A manufacturer can create their parts and assign them unique part numbers.

As with the other two components, you can purchase COTS options from vendors at a reduced cost.

However, manufacturers have exclusive power over the distribution of COTS components, allowing them to set prices and determine market share.

Furthermore, they have the freedom to alter or amend any requirements.

However, it might cause a problem as it becomes essential to source new components for a plane’s wiring harness due to a depleted supply.

Aircraft Wiring and Connection

Aircraft wire harnesses have wiring that is miles long.

Therefore, you need to plan and structure them precisely to prevent problems during and after construction.

Thus, the first step in any design process is the creation of a schematic in CAD software. It serves as a guide for subsequent construction.

Insulating materials used to be a one-size-fits-all affair, but nowadays, many options are available to meet various needs.

The signal you send, and the system’s electricity dictate which wires are used. Wire insulation also shifts with these variables.

It would also help to label the wires so that assembly and repairs don’t mix them up.

However, when picking a connector, you should remember these three things.

The number of connections that the connector can accept should come first.

The second factor is the thickness of each wire, and the last is the type of wire to enter the aircraft connector.


The aircraft wire harness is based on different wires and connectors.

Moreover, other standards, non-standard, and COTS parts make the harness complete and functioning.

While choosing the elements, you need to look into your requirements.

Then you will get to design the schematic using CAD software.

At Cloom, we offer wiring harnesses and cable assemblies to make your connection safe and reliable.

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