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Are Roller or Ball Bearings Better for Aircraft?

Precision and reliability are paramount in the aviation industry, and aircraft engines and their related components must function flawlessly to ensure passenger safety and operational efficiency. Central to the performance of these intricate machines are the bearings that support their rotating parts. With this in mind, two common types of bearings used in aircraft are roller bearings and ball bearings. In this blog, we will explore the advantages and disadvantages of these bearing types, helping you understand which is better suited for aircraft applications.

Roller Bearings: Precision in Motion

Roller bearings are well known for their ability to handle heavy radial loads. They consist of cylindrical rolling elements, or rollers, which distribute the load over a larger contact area. This feature makes roller bearings an excellent choice for aircraft engines, where radial loads from rotating parts are a common challenge.

One key advantage of roller bearings in aircraft applications is their durability. They can withstand high-speed rotation and are less prone to wear and fatigue, ensuring that they perform consistently over long periods. Their robust construction and efficient load distribution also make them ideal for applications within turbine engines, landing gear, and helicopter rotor systems.

While they present many advantages, roller bearings also have limitations. For instance, they are less effective at handling thrust loads than ball bearings, which excel in this regard. Nevertheless, thrust bearings are crucial in scenarios where axial forces, such as those experienced by propellers, need to be managed effectively.

Ball Bearings: Managing Thrust with Precision

Ball bearings, on the other hand, are renowned for their ability to handle thrust loads efficiently. They consist of small spherical rolling elements, or balls, which create a point contact with the raceways of the assembly. This design allows them to handle axial loads better than roller bearings, making them suitable for components like thrust reversers, propellers, and control surfaces.

Ball bearings are also known for their high-speed capabilities, which is crucial in aviation. They produce less friction, making them excellent for applications where rotational efficiency is a priority. In situations where thrust loads dominate, ball bearings are often the preferred choice due to their ability to mitigate axial forces.

Despite these advantages, ball bearings have limitations when it comes to handling heavy radial loads. The point of contact between the balls and raceways can lead to higher stresses on the bearing, potentially causing premature wear. In aircraft components where both radial and thrust loads are present, a combination of roller and ball bearings may be used to optimize performance.

The Choice for Aircraft Applications

Choosing between roller bearings and ball bearings for aircraft applications ultimately depends on the specific needs of the component or application in question. While roller bearings excel at managing radial loads and offer durability, ball bearings are more adept at handling thrust loads and high-speed rotation. In many cases, aircraft engineers may opt for a combination of both bearing types to capitalize on their respective strengths. This hybrid approach ensures that aircraft components can perform optimally in various operational scenarios.


Overall, the choice between roller and ball bearings for aircraft depends on the specific requirements of the component and the operational conditions it will face. By understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each bearing type, aircraft manufacturers can make informed decisions to ensure the safety and efficiency of their machines.

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