Home » Forging Wings: The Art of Crafting Steel Structures of Aircraft Hangars

Forging Wings: The Art of Crafting Steel Structures of Aircraft Hangars

The sky, vast and boundless, has always beckoned humanity to take flight. From the earliest biplanes to sleek modern jets, aircraft have revolutionized travel, commerce, and warfare. But behind every soaring plane lies a sturdy guardian—the aircraft hangar. These colossal structures, often crafted from steel, cradle our flying machines, sheltering them from the elements and ensuring their readiness for the next journey. In this exploration, we delve into the intricate dance of engineering, creativity, and history that shapes these steel giants. Welcome to the world of steel structures of aircraft hangars.

steel structures of aircraft hangar

1. Initial Steps and Budget Considerations for steel structures

Before embarking on the design process, consider the following:

  • Budget: Determine your budget for materials, supplies, equipment, and land. Building a custom airplane hangar can be cost-effective compared to purchasing one. Steel is often the material of choice due to its quick erection, sustainability, and recyclability.
  • Regulations and Permits: Understand local regulations and obtain necessary permits. Consult with airport officials and construction departments to ensure compliance with zoning laws and building codes.

Why use steel structure for aircraft hangars?

 Steel structures are the preferred choice for aircraft hangars due to their exceptional qualities. They offer strength and durability, crucial for supporting heavy loads and withstanding weather conditions. The clear span design of steel allows for unobstructed interior spaces, essential for maneuvering aircraft. Quick construction, adaptability, and cost-effectiveness make steel an ideal material. Additionally, its fire resistance, sustainability, and ability to accommodate future needs contribute to its popularity in hangar design.

2. Key Design Features aircraft hangar steel structures:

When designing a steel aircraft hangar, focus on the following features:

Clear Span of steel structures

Aim for a clear span design to maximize interior space. This allows unobstructed movement of aircraft. When designing an aircraft hangar, the clear span—the distance between supporting columns or walls—is a critical consideration. For ordinary passenger jets, the clear span varies based on the type of aircraft and the hangar’s purpose. Remember that these spans can vary based on specific design requirements, local regulations, and the intended use of the hangar. The goal is to provide ample space for aircraft movement, maintenance, and storage while minimizing structural obstructions.

Height of steel structures

Consider the height requirements based on the aircraft being housed. Larger planes may need taller hangars. The height of a steel structure for an aircraft hangar is influenced by several factors, including the aircraft’s height, functional requirements, and structural design. Aircraft Height is measured from the ground to the highest point on the aircraft (e.g., the top of the tail fin or the highest point on the fuselage). Begin by understanding the maximum height of the aircraft that the hangar will house. The hangar’s height must provide adequate clearance for the entire aircraft, including its wingspan and tail. The hangar height is typically measured from the floor to the eave line (where the roof meets the walls). For pitched roof hangars, an approximate height can be calculated using this formula: Height ≈ 0.5 × Span × Pitch Here, the span is the distance between supports, and the pitch is the roof slope angle.


Choose appropriate hangar doors (sliding, bi-fold, or hydraulic) to accommodate aircraft entry and exit.

  • Vertical Lift Doors: Open from either side; minimal space required behind the building.
  • High-Speed Hinge Doors: Opens from either side; faster operation.
  • Rolling Doors: Vertical roll-up doors; efficient and durable.
  • Sectional Doors: Composed of multiple panels; good insulation and security.
  • Overhead Doors: Single-panel doors; easy to operate.
Jet CategoryClear Span (feet)Hangar Height (feet)Hangar Door TypeExample Aircraft
Small Regional Jets100 – 15020 – 30Sliding or Bi-foldEmbraer E-Jets, Bombardier CRJ series
Medium-Sized Jets150 – 20030 – 40Bi-fold or HydraulicBoeing 737, Airbus A320 family
Large Wide-Body Jets200 – 300+40 – 60Hydraulic or Vertical LiftBoeing 777, Airbus A350
Very Large Aircraft300+60+Vertical Lift or TelescopicBoeing 747, Airbus A380
Span, height and Door requirements for aircraft hangar
Key Design Features aircraft hangar steel structures

Ventilation and Insulation

Proper ventilation and insulation are essential for maintaining optimal conditions inside the hangar. Ventilation and insulation play crucial roles in ensuring a functional and comfortable environment within a steel structure aircraft hangar. Let’s explore how these aspects are addressed:

  1. Ventilation:
  2. Insulation:
  3. Water Mitigation:
  4. Energy Efficiency:

Fire Safety

Fire safety is of utmost importance in steel structure aircraft hangars. The inherent fire-resistant properties of steel contribute to structural integrity during emergencies. To enhance safety further:

  1. Fire-Resistant MaterialsSteel, being non-combustible, reduces the risk of structural failure. Opt for fire-rated roofing and cladding materials to prevent rapid flame spread.
  2. Fire Suppression Systems: Install automatic sprinkler systems throughout the hangar. These activate upon heat detection. Low-expansion foam systems are also effective. Strategically placed fire extinguishers aid quick response.
  3. Electrical Safety: Properly install electrical systems to prevent short circuits or overheating. Regular inspections are crucial.
  4. Emergency Exits and Evacuation Routes: Clearly mark exits and train personnel on emergency procedures.
  5. Storage and Hazardous Materials: Store flammable materials away from aircraft. Manage fuel storage carefully.
  6. Fire-Resistant Doors and Partitions: Use fire-rated doors and partitions to compartmentalize the hangar, preventing fire spread.

3. Loads Experienced by Aircraft Hangars

Aircraft hangars endure various loads:

  • Dead Load: The weight of the structure itself, including steel beams, columns, roofing, and cladding. The number is usually around 9 psf.
  • Live Load: The weight of equipment attached to the structure. A significant portion comes from crane load, which is used to transport different parts around the hangar. More information on the exact value of live loads can be obtained from ASCE 7.
  • Wind Load: Consider wind forces acting on the structure. Hangars in windy regions require robust design. The wind forces depend on the height and location of the structure. Again in this ASCE 7 provides further information on how to compute wind loads for the steel structures of aircraft hangars. For aircraft usually wind is the most critical type of load action.
  • Snow Load: Account for snow accumulation on the roof. However, due to the pitched nature of roof of steel structure, this load is less critical.
  • Seismic Load: Design for seismic events if applicable to your location.

Concluding remarks

Designing a steel aircraft hangar involves a blend of engineering, creativity, and adherence to regulations. Whether you’re constructing a private hangar or a commercial facility, thoughtful planning ensures a safe and functional space for aircraft. Remember, every hangar has a unique story waiting to unfold in its steel framework.

If you are an engineer look for help in designing the steel structures for airport hangars get in touch with us here. By the way here is a nice example on the design process of hangar by U.S. Corps of Engineers

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