I am an aerospace engineering student and I am having problems finding information about the materials usually used in the dorsal fin of an aircraft. I would also like to know the kind of stress and forces this part of the aircraft is under. The project I have to do is about replacing the material the selected part of the image is usually made of.

So my question is if anyone knows the material typically used in this part and if you may know any other alloy or material that could be used.enter image description here


2 Answers 2


It seems the dorsal fairing is already made of composite materials. See the images below.

These components only receive aerodynamic loads and maybe unlikely yet possible foreing object impacts.

enter image description here

(taken from this paper)

enter image description here

(from google with "atr 72 tail fin fairing" keywords)

From the below picture (from here) you can easily spot aluminium components (e.g. fuselage) in green from composite ones in white.

enter image description here


The loads on section of a dorsal fin are minor, just from the dynamic pressure of airflow that may be striking the panel from the side during yaw excursions in turbulence. It's a "lifting" surface, insofar as it's contributing to the restorative yaw moment being part of a stabilizing fin, but the loads aren't super high and it may even just be attached like a fairing using dzus fasteners or camlocks or similar if there is something inside that needs ready access.

Can't speak for the ATR specifically, but the material is probably either 2024 Alclad sheet like the adjacent structure, or if the part has compound curves, you might see a more formable alloy like 6061 or even 5052 in a non-structural part like that (you will see 6-series alloys in heated leading edges for example). On newer designs it's more likely to be composite, usually Kevlar or a fibreglass/Kevlar blend (fibreglass is better in compression being stiffer, so it is sometimes mixed in with the Kevlar) and most recently carbon fiber.

If I was tasked with redesigning the part to a new material, it's likely because it's aluminum and the goal is weight saving, and I would likely choose carbon fiber as the replacement. The optimum would be carbon fiber skins sandwiched over a nomex honeycomb core, the way interior floor panels are made.

An important caveat about using CF, is you cannot let it live right beside aluminum where there is a potential for direct contact. They are well apart on the galvanic scale and if there is water present the carbon will destroy the aluminum. If that's a problem it might be better to go with Kevlar composite.

  • $\begingroup$ This is a good general answer, I would go even further regarding Kevlar and it's properties under compression loads. Words terrible and suck come to mind 🙃 $\endgroup$
    – Jpe61
    Commented Oct 14, 2020 at 17:12

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