Historically, the United States developed the first practical air suspension system during World War II, specifically for heavy bombers and transport aircraft. Initially, suspension systems for vehicles and aircraft either used springs or were non-existent. The invention of air suspension meant that weight could be saved through a self-levelling system while achieving an axle height independent of the vehicle’s cargo weight by using pneumatic valves.
What is an air suspension system?
An air suspension system, whether for vehicles or aircraft, is powered by an electric pump, compressor, or pneumatic valve that pumps air into flexible bellows that are usually made out of textile-reinforced airbags composed of polyurethane and rubber. Air suspension systems slowly replaced the leaf or coil spring suspension system. The pneumatic valve or compressor inflates the bags to a certain pressure to act as springs.
Air suspension proved to be superior to the hydro-pneumatic suspension system that some vehicles and aircraft were using. This is because the former used pressurised air while the latter had to use pressurised liquid.
The benefits of using an air suspension system
1. Using an air suspension system means having a soft, smooth, and consistent driving experience. For aircraft, it means a smooth and safe landing. In fact, the replacement of conventional steel spring suspensions in heavier applications in trucks, tractor-trailers, large buses, trains, and aircraft increased the safety level of these machines.
2. The use of air suspensions meant that drivers and passengers travelled in better comfort because of a reduction in noise and harsh road vibration that causes fatigue and discomfort.
3. There is less wear and tear on the suspension system because of the reduced road harshness and vibration with heavy-duty driving, especially with trucks and trains. Trailers lasted longer because air suspension components do not absorb much vibration.
4. The system reduces the tendency of trucks and other heavier vehicles to bounce uncontrollably over rougher roads and terrain, whether the vehicle is full or empty. This also shows that the air suspension system improves the ride height based on the vehicle’s speed and load weight. The system also adjusts the ride height that suits the surface of the road.
5. In the case of trailer trucks and hauliers with cumbersome loads, the air suspension offers more consistency by keeping all wheels even no matter what the road or terrain. This results in reduced body roll when turning on curves and corners.
Master Mac 2000
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