A Look Into NAA’s Sheet Metal Project

At National Aviation Academy, one of the most important projects a student will learn deals with structures and sheet metal. Through classroom lectures and hands-on training, students have the opportunity to learn about one of the most crucial parts of an aircraft: the airframe.

The mechanical structure of an aircraft is known as the airframe. The typical areas that are considered part of the airframe are the fuselage, undercarriage, wings, and empennage.

Airframe curriculum at NAA includes subjects such as:

  • inspection
  • structures (wood, sheet metal, composite),
  • induction
  • ignition and starting
  • and fuel systems

As part of the airframe training, students will be tasked with working with sheet metal to understand the importance of proper riveting, repairs, and essential terminology that pertain to structures.

Makings of an Aircraft

Structures pertains to parts of the airframe of an aircraft, including the:

  • fuselage
  • wings
  • an empennage
  • landing gear
  • and powerplant

During the structures portion of the airframe curriculum, students are lectured on the different materials that can be used to form aircraft parts. From wood and fabric to sheet metal and composite, aircraft have been built using many components.

Background Information

The project that students are tasked with during the structures portion of the course is all about sheet metal. Before any hands-on training goes on, students are given an overview and basic background of types of rivets (special and conventional) as well as terminology.

For example, an aircraft’s skin is the outer surface, which covers much of its wings and fuselage. Learning an understanding terminology is a must before beginning to work on the project!

Rivet Practice

Before even working with sheet metal, students practice riveting. Riveting is the joining or fastening of plates of metal with rivets and is important to practice beforehand. Much like with the overview of structures, riveting comes with its own set of terminology. For instance, students are lectured on the types of rivets used, as well as calculating and marking distances between rivets to keep them uniform.

Students practice on a piece of metal to properly understand the concepts that instructors teach about in the classroom before moving on to the real deal: sheet metal.

Quality Over Quantity

Finally, now that students are familiar with riveting, it is time to move on to the larger project. Step by step guidelines are provided that break down what to do at each portion of the project. The sheet metal project is all about learning how to repair and fix mistakes, rather than just fabricating a new panel. In the aviation industry, manufacturers and other aviation maintenance facilities come to expect a certain level of capability when working with an aircraft’s fuselage, for example. Therefore, it is important to practice and train properly to specifications.

Instructors act as quality control, as the quality of the project is in mind. They give guidance on fixing and repairs, but it is up to the student to create the project!

Hands-On Training

The first step includes taking a large piece of sheet metal and outlining the frames and skin that will be the basis of the project. Next, the frames and skin are cut out, and the edges are smoothed.

Next, after trimming and smoothing the frames, a forming block is used to form the proper shape of a piece of fuselage. The skin portion of the sheet metal is then rolled out to provide contour to the piece, which will eventually sit on the frames.

Then, students rivet the pieces together to specific standards. Again, instructors oversee the project and guide students on mistakes they make. Eventually, the sheet metal pieces that students create will be painted, allowing the student to showcase some creativity!

Forming the Student Experience

National Aviation Academy’s curriculum is taught through three primary modes: classroom instruction accompanied by text and workbook review, team-oriented projects in a laboratory setting which simulate on the job skills, and real-world experience working on aircraft at our hangar.

All three form the basis of the student experience: providing the opportunity for students to train to become certified Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) mechanics. Projects, such as the sheet metal project, allow students to utilize the tools at hand that they will likely use on the job!

While this is just a brief overview of one of the projects that students are tasked with, there are many others that give students a glimpse at real-life scenarios in their aviation careers!

If you would like to learn more about our hands-on projects and want to learn more about the aviation maintenance technicians that keep our skies safe, please fill out the form below!