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What Is SAE-AS50881 and How Does It Relate to Wiring Harness Design?



InterConnect’s birthday is coming up on January 12, which will be our 28th Anniversary! Over the years InterConnect has seen many different companies call-out ‘SAE-AS50881’ as the standard for manufacturing wiring harnesses.  When InterConnect’s engineers and planners see this note they get a smile on their faces and chuckle because SAE-AS50881 is not a standard for manufacturing wiring harnesses. This specification does relate to wiring harnesses, but it is not as a manufacturing standard.  So, what is SAE-AS50881? Glad you asked…

SAE-AS50881 is an abbreviated name.  It really stands for ‘Society of Automotive Engineers (or SAE) Aerospace Standard (or AS) number 50881’.  So why does this standard mix automotive design and aerospace design? That is an interesting story. SAE-AS50881 originally was a military standard called MIL-W-5088.  The MIL-W-5088 title was “Wiring, Aerospace Vehicle”. About 25 years ago, the US military decided to reduce the number of military standards. They preferred to go to commercial standards which used former military standards as a basis for new designs.  At that time, the US Navy controlled the military standards. The US Navy had a large organization to write, release, and update military standards. To save money, the US military started finding organizations to take over and control standards while still allowing military personnel to be involved.  This is what happened to MIL-W-5088. Back on December 9, 1992, MIL-W-5088 was transferred to SAE-AS50881 and the organization that controlled it was the Society of Automotive Engineers.

Now that you know this story, for the remainder of this blog we will omit the SAE part of the name and just call it AS50881.  People who have not read it or are unfamiliar with it think it is a wiring harness manufacturing standard because of its title, however it is not.  AS50881 is a standard that mostly describes design requirements (especially) for installation of wiring harnesses into military aircraft.  Besides installation requirements, AS50881 also provides the methodology for deciding on wire numbers for every wire throughout an aircraft.  Soon, InterConnect will release a blog that will discuss aircraft wire number methodology.

Feel free to read AS50881 anytime, however, if you want standards that address manufacturing and repair of aerospace wiring harnesses, InterConnect recommends the following:

  1. IPC/WHMA-A-620: Requirements and Acceptance for Cable and Wire Harness Assemblies
  2. IPC-A-610: Acceptability of Electronic Assemblies
  3. IPC J-STD-001: Requirements for Soldered Electrical and Electronic Assemblies
  4. NAVAIR 01-1A-505-1: Harness Installation and Repair Practices for Aircraft Electric and Electronic Wiring.  This standard is a combination of the former US Navy standard with the same name as well as the former US Air Force Standard T.O. 01-1A-14 and former US Army standard TM 1-1500-323-24-1.

InterConnect manufactures our wiring harnesses to these standards as well as standards developed by large aerospace design companies such as: Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Airbus, BAE, Northrop Grumman, Honeywell, Sikorsky, Bell, and L3Harris. 

If you are interested in wiring harness design, have wiring harness issues, or any questions, call us at 817.377.9473. 

Our License

We are the sole licensee of Lockheed Martin for F-16 electrical products. Through this agreement, we have access to Lockheed Martin’s F-16 engineering data, tooling and configuration control information. We also have a Technical Services agreement with Sikorsky for all of their aircraft. This agreement allows us to obtain their engineering data needed to rewire helicopters that Sikorsky manufactures.



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