Wire Identification - Aircraft Electrical System

The proper identification of electrical wires and cables with their circuits and voltages is necessary to provide safety of operation, safety to maintenance personnel, and ease of maintenance. All wire used on aircraft must have its type identification imprinted along its length. It is common practice to follow this part number with the five digit/letter Commercial and Government Entity (CAGE) code identifying the wire manufacturer. You can identify the performance capabilities of existing installed wire you need to replace, and avoid the inadvertent use of a lower performance and unsuitable replacement wire.

Placement of Identification Markings

Identification markings should be placed at each end of the wire and at 15-inch maximum intervals along the length of the wire. Wires less than 3 inches in length need not be identified. Wires 3 to 7 inches in length should be identified approximately at the center. Added identification marker sleeves should be located so that ties, clamps, or supporting devices need not be removed to read the identification. The wire identification code must be printed to read horizontally from left to right) or vertically (from top to bottom). The two methods of marking wire or cable are as follows:

1. Direct marking is accomplished by printing the cable’s outer covering. [Figure 1B]

Aircraft Electrical System Wire Identification
Figure 1. Wire markings for single wire without sleeve

Aircraft Electrical System Wire Identification
Figure 2. Spacing of printed identification marks (indirect marking)

2. Indirect marking is accomplished by printing a heat-shrinkable sleeve and installing the printed sleeve on the wire or cables outer covering. Indirectly-marked wire or cable should be identified with printed sleeves at each end and at intervals not longer than 6 feet. [Figure 2] The individual wires inside a cable should be identified within 3 inches of their termination. [Figure 1A]

Types of Wire Markings

The preferred method is to mark directly on the wire without causing insulation degradation. Teflon-coated wires, shielded wiring, multiconductor cable, and thermocouple wires usually require special sleeves to carry identification marks. There are some special wire marking machines available that can be used to stamp directly on the type wires mentioned above. Whatever method of marking is used, the marking should be legible and the color should contrast with the wire insulation or sleeve.

Several different methods can be used to mark directly on the wire: hot stamp marking, ink jet printers, and laser jet printers. [Figure 3] The hot stamp method can damage the insulation of a newer type of wire that utilizes thin insulators. Fracture of the insulation wall and penetration to the conductor of these materials by the stamping dies have occurred. Later in service, when these openings have been wetted by various fluids or moisture, serious arcing and surface tracking have damaged wire bundles.

Aircraft Electrical System Wire Identification
Figure 3. Laser wire printer

Identification sleeves can be used if the direct marking on the wire is not possible. [Figure 4]

Aircraft Electrical System Wire Identification
Figure 4. Alternate method of identifying wire bundles

Flexible sleeving, either clear or opaque, is satisfactory for general use. When color-coded or striped component wire is used as part of a cable, the identification sleeve should specify which color is associated with each wire identification code. Identification sleeves are normally used for identifying the following types of wire or cable: unjacketed shielded wire, thermocouple wire, coaxial cable, multiconductor cable, and high temperature wire. In most cases, identification tape can be used in place of sleeving. For sleeving exposed to high temperatures (over 400 °F), materials, such as silicone fiberglass, should be used. Polyolefin sleeving should be used in areas where resistance to solvent and synthetic hydraulic fluids is necessary. Sleeves may be secured in place with cable ties or by heat shrinking. The identification sleeving for various sizes of wire is shown in Figure 5.

Aircraft Electrical System Wire Identification
Figure 5. Recommended size of identification sleeving

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