Latest Trends in Hangar Doors

If you have an extremely large building entrance, you need an equally large door to span its large width; and hangar doors are ideal for that.

Increases in air travel, customization, insulation, safety awareness, digital technology

By Mark Robins

Photo courtesy of I-Beam Sliding Doors

Hangar doors give control over access and security, allow large vehicles to transition through the doorway, and protect interiors from sun, rain, high winds and harsh environments. While most commonly used in aviation, hangar doors also have agriculture, marine, commercial and residential applications. This article focuses on the latest trends in hangar doors.

Growing in Popularity

According to a report titled “Hangar Doors Market-Global Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Growth, Trends, and Forecast 2018—2028,” from Albany, N.Y.-based Transparency Market Research, widespread developments in the aviation industry are providing a major boost to the global hangar doors market. The report states rising urbanization and industrialization have increased demand for air travel, contributing to the rise in use of aircraft hangar-based components such as hangar doors. It also cites an increase in the use of civil aircraft for transport as a key factor driving growth in the global hangar doors market.

Photo courtesy of Erect-A-Tube Inc.

Photo courtesy of Erect-A-Tube Inc.

The report goes on to explain this growth is worldwide. North America has the most growth in the market due to its highly developed aircraft industry and that while large-scale urbanization and industrialization is projected to occur in various sectors, North America will continue to hold its lead in future. “Regulation of product costs, achieving geographical expansion, and bringing forth efficiency in product manufacturing processes are hangar trends followed by most players operating in the global hangar doors market.”

Another separate report by Maharashtra, India-based Precision Reports titled “Global Aircraft Hangar Doors Market,” states the global aircraft hangar doors market size is projected to reach $109 million by 2026, from $88 million in 2020, at a CAGR of 3.7% during 2021-2026.

Hangar Configuration Trends

Aircraft hangar construction varies, which is why there is no one-type-fits-all door for every hangar. To meet the challenge of filling massive openings, these huge steel doors mounted on tracks come in a variety of different configurations, for different reasons. There are bifold, sliding, single and multi-panel, telescopic and centerfold, braced and unbraced canopy hangar doors.

Photo courtesy of PowerLift Hydraulic Doors

Photo courtesy of PowerLift Hydraulic Doors

Jon Howell, vice president of sales,Erect-A-Tube Inc., Harvard, Ill., says he sees a trend in his customers requesting bi-fold doors or bottom rolling doors for their aircraft hangars. “Preference is on a proven design for the particular application, which may also include analysis of rental rates and return on investment for the project.”

Mike Schweiss, president, Schweiss Doors, Fairfax, Minn., explains that more and more people are using bifold or hydraulic doors. “For one, there is a trend for customers wanting larger doors now that they have been proven safer and more affordable. These doors can be built much wider and taller—over 100 feet wide—a big plus for pilots with large aircraft and also for agricultural use, where today’s machinery keeps getting bigger and bigger. Bifold and hydraulic doors are applauded by architects and contractors for their versatility of design while at the same time giving maximum headroom to those needing it. Bifold doors are still the top choice for hangar owners, but big hydraulic doors are in more demand.”

Jon Fehr, owner of I-Beam Sliding Doors, Chenoa, Ill., says swing hangar doors are growing in usage because of their strong, precise, safe and smooth motion. “[It’s the] Servo Electric drive high-powered actuators that provide this precise, safe and smooth motion. No more need for heavy, bulky, uncontrolled hydraulic power, these doors run with smart servo drives that control the motion, speed and accuracy that’s unmatched to anything else on the market.” Scott Douglas, national director of sales, PowerLift Hydraulic Doors, Brookings, S.D., sees a move from multi-door hangars to single-door hangars because on large, multi-plane hangars, one wide door usually costs less than two narrower doors. “This allows each aircraft to enter or exit without moving others out of the way and allows future upgrades to larger aircraft.”

Photo courtesy of Schweiss Doors

Photo courtesy of Schweiss Doors

Hangar Design Trends

Howell says in terms of hangar door design trends, his key customer inquiries revolve around being able to accommodate various door sizes for optimal function and versatility. Some of these include designing for high wind-speed conditions, interior features such as mezzanines and office space, plus a clean exterior look.

Decorative door coverings are being used more and more to enhance the exterior look of hangar doors. No longer bound to customary exterior steel cladding, Schweiss explains decorative window designs can be incorporated into hangar doors as well as all-glass fronts, custom windows, vinyl siding, stucco, rock face, decorative wood and translucent panels. Douglas sees more and more hangar doors being designed to make architectural statements. “Customers want clean lines and a finished appearance with no visible latches, cables or other exposed mechanisms. Glass is becoming a popular cladding, as are masonry, specialty steel products and wood.”

In the past, hangar door cladding and insulation were overlooked or were an afterthought, but not anymore. “The focus has been on energy efficiency as more aircraft hangars are equipped with HVAC and are required to meet codes set forth by the International Energy Code Council,” Howell says. “In addition to multiple design preferences, the variety of cladding components on the market today allows customers choices in upgrading to architectural cladding over conventional R panels for a higher-end look. Building codes continue to change, requiring door systems to be designed for higher wind speeds. In addition, we have more requests for hot-dip galvanizing of door frames and components that will be exposed to corrosive environments common to coastal states.”

Photo courtesy of Schweiss Doors

Fehr agrees the options for exterior hangar door cladding are now “infinite” and insulation is being more widely used. “Insulation can be up to R-50, [and it] seals tighter than any other door ever. Pre-engineered frames rated for 115-mph wind [are available in hangar doors] up to 80 feet wide, with the ability to engineer up to 160-mph rating in high-wind coastal regions.”

Douglas says there is a growing trend in hangar door cycle time awareness. “Typical hydraulic doors open in 40 seconds or less at the push of a button, allowing rapid access and temperature stability in climate-controlled hangars.”

Installation Trends

There are trends making hangar door installation easier. “Materials provided through a single-source supply alleviate the issues of missing components and responsibility in design,” Howell says. “This translates into efficient delivery and installation of the product, plus provides a complete material warranty on the products provided.”

To avoid building designs that may be underbuilt and end up costing the end-user of the door and building more money, Schweiss Doors educates and provides the building manufacturer, architect or door owner with a full set of accurate and detailed specs. “If they should desire to do their own installation, there’s an easy-to-follow install manual provided to have their door installed correctly, just as factory installers would do,” Schweiss says.

Safety Trends

Performing numerous open/close cycles every day, hangar doors must not damage or injure the very thing they are trying to protect: the hangar’s contents and more importantly, the people using the hangar. “Over the years, there have been some occasions where hydraulic doors, from other companies, have had hinge welds that failed, literally tearing off the doorframe and in some cases damaging aircraft when doors have come down,” Schweiss says. “Bifold door malfunctions are many times attributed to inferior hinge designs, steel cables and underbuilt doorframes.”

Douglas believes standard safety systems are a big reason for the market share increase of hydraulic and bottom roller doors. “Hydraulic doors have multiple automatic lock systems if pressure fails, and bottom roller drives can use sensors to stop operation if resistance is detected.”

Photo courtesy of I-Beam Sliding Doors

The aviation industry is acknowledging that one way to ensure hangar door safety is to require hangar door periodic inspection and maintenance. “With all mechanical devices located in an array of environments, inspection and preventative maintenance are key components of ownership,” Howell says. “Quality bi-fold doors have always been safe and reliable. There have been some reports of lack of maintenance due to tightened budgets and shortage of skilled individuals. A door maintenance manual provides guidelines and checklists to assist owners in completion of these items.”

One safety trend Schweiss acknowledges is the increased use of liftstraps. Schweiss Doors has done away with cables on its liftstrap doors; even the automatic latching system is cable-free. Using liftstraps instead of cables to lift bifold doors has made hangar doors safer with virtually no long-term maintenance required while reportedly barely affecting the cost. “Patented liftstraps are far safer because each liftstrap is rated to lift 29,000 pounds compared to 1/4-inch steel cables rated at 7,200 pounds that have a tendency to overwrap, fray, rust, get tangled or crisscross, resulting in a need to be replaced. More lift-points evenly distribute the weight of the door and increase the doors safety factor. Cables used to be the industry standard, and we all know cables have a tendency to break if not inspected regularly and maintained properly.”

Digital Trends

Technology is aiding hangar door safety and efficiency. More and more hangar doors are being furnished with a safety electrical disconnect that completely disables the door for service, maintenance and emergency backup operations in case of a power outage. Howell says sensors, safety switches, ratings and other apparatus help provide added safety prior, during and after operation of a hangar door system. Safety override switches and interlock switches are part of the base product offered by Erect-A-Tube. Howell explains, “Digital technology is being implemented in the market … the key is safety. We believe the user needs to be at the door operation controls at all times to ensure safety during operation and ensure surrounding areas are clear of obstacles.” Fehr says at I-Beam Sliding Doors, “Safety is paramount; load sensing, obstruction sensing control, photo-eye safety options, smart edge touch sensing are all available.”

Schweiss doors can be ordered or upgraded with door base safety edges, photo-eye sensors, warning lights and horns and top override jiggle switches that disconnect power to the door if the upper limit fails. “The Schweiss compact hydraulic state-of-the-art pump has a built-in positive hold valve that maintains and keeps the door locked in the open and closed positions,” Schweiss says. “Ample horsepower is provided so you can stop your door at any position. Hydraulic pumps have flow control valves and Soft Shift valves that give these doors a smooth descent and a soft start and stop. Our three-button constant contact dead-man switch prevents operators from leaving the control panel while a door is in motion. Schweiss has a velocity fuse on each cylinder so the door cannot go down or close by itself if a hydraulic hose or tube breaks. The door will stop immediately.”

Schweiss advises that digital technology can lead to increased costs and suggests that hangar door buyers need to ask themselves: Do you want elaborate digital technology, or are you satisfied with using push-button or remote opening simple-operating doors with modern functions that are already in place?

Douglas says remote control and cell phone app systems for hangar doors are becoming increasingly popular. “Smartphone-based door control apps are now in production and work in combination with on-site cameras for enhanced security. Some apps offer multiple functions such turning on lights, starting preheaters and unlocking access doors.”

Mike Schweiss, president, Schweiss Doors
Photo courtesy of Schweiss Doors