As I was helping my son put together the huge Harry Potter Lego Set he saved up for with his chores and gift money, I focused in on the details of two particular Legos. Unless you have been living on a different planet, you know that Legos fit together with “male” and “female” pieces. This simple technology is the same in the aerospace industry for aircraft wiring harness and circuit breaker panel connectors.
Connectors are used on electrical wiring harnesses and are essentially enclosures (i.e., shells) which house contacts with wires. The electrical connection into the system at the contact termination is either a soldered or crimped connection (which is removable from the connector using a special tool). The shell and insert may be moisture resistant or a hermetic seal. The inserts in each connector must be oriented for correct mating, and the shell or insert usually contains a keying feature to prevent miss-mating that could damage the connector or result in an electrical problem.
A Plug connector is the “male” connector, and a Receptacle connector is the “female” connector. Plugs and receptacles most commonly used for military aircraft were developed in the 1930s. They set the standard for the modern Military Standard (MIL-STD) and Military Specification (MIL-SPEC) connectors. One of the biggest challenges in designing an Aircraft Electrical Wire Interconnection System (EWIS) is providing the correct connector plugs and receptacles for each reference designator of an electrical harness.
Plugs have prolonged connecting pins which fit into the mating socket = the Receptacle. A receptacle connector is sometimes called a jack. A receptacle will have mounting features such as a flange with holes. Every electrical harness will have a variety of connector plugs and receptacles. What does all this mean? It simply means that every connector plug will have a mating connector receptacle and every connector receptacle will have a mating connector plug in the aircraft.
To see some connector plugs and receptacles, schedule a tour. InterConnect Wiring will show you how connector plugs and receptacles mate together in military and commercial aircraft wiring harnesses and cockpit panels.