What is an Aircraft Actuator

Aircraft actuators are devices that can transmit and redirect one form of motion energy to another. The source of energy may be electric, hydraulic, or pneumatic. Actuation systems have many critical applications in the aviation industry. They’re used to operate everything from cargo bay doors and landing gear to engine components and flight control surfaces.

Aerospace technology is in a constant state of evolution with manufacturers and operators working to make aerospace equipment more efficient, streamlined, and cost-effective. For aerospace actuator systems, it’s crucial that they can withstand conditions such as strong vibrations, cold, and heat. They also need to be able to achieve very high dynamic forces yet be lightweight and fit into tiny spaces. 

Different Types of Actuator

Electro-hydraulic Actuators 

Electrohydraulic actuators combine the low infrastructure costs and simplicity of an electrical power supply with the mechanical failsafe capability and high operating speed of hydraulic or fluid-powered actuation systems. 

They’re a modular combination of a hydraulic actuator, a power unit supplying electric power to a hydraulic pump and motor, and a dedicated electric or electromechanical control system to control the actuator functions. They come in handy where only an electric power supply is available and mechanical failsafe action is crucial.

Electro-hydrostatic Actuators 

Electrohydrostatic actuators combine design elements from electric and electrohydraulic actuators. These systems convert electrical power into localized hydraulic power for flight control. They typically include their own hydraulic pump, eliminating the need for separate pumps and tubing. This results in a simpler system architecture that improves reliability and safety.

Electro-mechanical Actuators 

A growing interest in sustainable, energy-efficient technology in recent decades has encouraged the shift from traditional hydraulic systems to electromechanical actuators. These systems convert electricity to mechanical force, offering the strength of an aircraft hydraulic actuator with more precise movement and motion control. They feature simple designs and computerized control systems for enhanced control, reliability, and improved fuel efficiency.

In general, electromechanical actuators offer several benefits, including:

Compact: They have a smaller footprint than their hydraulic and pneumatic counterparts, so they require little space.

Precise: Electromechanical actuators can be more easily controlled for better performance.

Energy-efficient: Electromechanical actuators use less energy than pneumatic or hydraulic actuators.

Low maintenance: The design simplicity of electromechanical actuators makes them easier and cheaper to maintain.

Lightweight: With few components and light parts, electromechanical systems are lighter than other types of actuators, reducing the load on the aircraft and improving fuel efficiency.

Application and Capabilities of Aircraft Actuators

Airplane actuators are integral to many critical aircraft functions. Advances in aerospace actuation systems have been a key player in making aircraft more economical, more maneuverable, and faster. Common applications of these systems include:

●      Flaps

●      Thrust reversers

●      Visual guidance systems

●      Gimbals actuator

●      Cargo bay doors and lifts

●      Autopilot control

●      Throttle control

●      Horizontal stabilizer trim

●      Winch and gimbal systems

●      Doors and elevators


Since 2002, Creative Motion Control continues to position itself as a leading manufacturer of top-notch motion control products. We design, engineer, and manufacture aircraft actuators in accordance with the highest industry standards. Call us today at (866) 497-7202 or use our convenient online form to request a quote.

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