Fabric Systems


Fabric Improvements

In the late 1950’s and 1960’s, with labor rates climbing, it was getting more and more expensive to recover airplanes.  With the advent of synthetic fabrics, a solution to longer lasting covering systems was on the horizon.  Dacron was strong and easy to apply.  Instead of sewing in on the aircraft it could be glued on.  The advantage to using this new synthetic fabric was that it is easer to install and it will far out last cotton and dope.  Planes that are covered with Dacron, which are stored outside, will last about 3 times longer than cotton.

 Shrinking and tightening of the fabric was done by heat instead of the dope and  all in all it was much easier than cotton. When Dacron was first tried, butyrate dope was used just like it had been on cotton.  Unfortunately the butyrate did not have the strength needed to adhere to the slick Dacron and it just peeled off in sheets.

 Dacron fibers are very smooth and slick where cotton fibers are rough and have little hairs so there is more surface area for the finish to sink in and adhere to.  This means that whatever is first put on Dacron needs to encapsulate the fibers and be strong enough not to fracture.  It must also be compatible with whatever finish is used on top of it.  Each system that uses Dacron fabric has addressed this issue in different ways.

The main fabric systems that use Dacron fabric that are now available are:  Ceconite, Polyfiber, Air-Tech, Super Flight, and Stewart Systems. Each of these systems has STCs, which are needed for approval on certificated aircraft. STCs are not needed for experiential aircraft.  Using any of these systems, you can end up with a very nice looking and safe airplane.  They each have strong points and they each have weaknesses and I will cover these for you in the comparison that follows. What should be remembered is that each of these systems is designed as a complete system and they should be used that way.  Once you have decided on a system, you should stay with that system and its materials all the way through the project.  If you start substituting material you will probably void the STC and this  can cause big problems with the finished product.




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