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Aircraft Fuel Systems


is something that burns and produces heat when ignited When a fuel is mixed with air the heat energy is converted to mechanical energy i.e thrust force.

Types of fuel

Fuels are classified into three according to their physical state A. solid B. Gases C. liquid

Aircraft Fuel
Reciprocating engine fuels Turbine engine fuels

Jet A which is Kerosene Jet B a blend of kerosene and gasoline Jet A-1 used for operation at extremely low temperatures

Jet A and Jet B are the most common

Fuel System Contamination

The higher the viscosity of the fuel, the greater its ability to hold contaminants in suspension This is why jet fuels, which have a higher viscosity than av-gas, are also more susceptible to contamination than av-gas The main contaminants that reduce the quality of fuel are:

Other petroleum products Water Rust Scale Dirt

Water Contamination

Water contamination in fuel can be in two forms:

Dissolved in the fuel Entrained or suspended in the fuel

Water in fuel can cause icing in the aircraft fuel system, usually in:

Boost pump screens Low pressure filters

Large amounts of water can cause engine stoppage

Contamination Detection
Coarse fuel contamination can be detected visually Uncontaminated fuel should be:

Clean Bright Contain no perceptible free water

Contamination Detection (cont.)

Clean means the absence of any readily visible sediment or entrained water Bright refers to the shiny appearance of clean, dry fuel Free water is indicated by a cloud, haze, or water slug

Water saturated in fuel is not always visible Perfectly clear water can contain as much as three times the acceptable limit

Contamination Detection (cont.)

There is no accurate method of detecting fuel entrained water when it is frozen For this reason, it is important that fuel is checked when the water is in a liquid state

This should not be done following a flight at altitude when the fuel would be below 32 degrees F It is more effective to drain the fuel after the fuel has set undisturbed for a period of time, allowing the water to precipitate and settle to the drain point

Fuel Systems

The purpose of an aircraft fuel system is to store and deliver the proper amount of clean fuel at the correct pressure to the engine Fuel systems should provide positive and reliable fuel flow through all phases of flight including:

Changes in altitude Violent maneuvers Sudden acceleration and deceleration

Fuel Systems (cont.)

Fuel systems should also continuously monitor system operation such as:
Fuel pressure Fuel flow Warning signals Tank quantity

Types of Fuel Systems

Fuel systems can be classified in two broad categories:

Gravity-Feed Systems Pressure-Feed Systems

Gravity-Feed Systems
Gravity-Feed Systems use only the force of gravity to push fuel to the engine fuel-control mechanism The bottom of the fuel tank must be high enough to provide adequate pressure to the fuel-control component

This type of system is often used in high-wing light aircraft

Pressure-Feed Systems

Pressure-Feed Systems require the use of a fuel pump to provide fuel-pressure to the engines fuel-control component There are two main reasons these systems are necessary:

The fuel tanks are too low to provide enough pressure from gravity The fuel tanks are a great distance from the engine

Also, most large aircraft with higher powered engines require a pressure system regardless of the fuel tank location because of the large volume of fuel used by the engines

Fuel System Components

Pumps Tanks Lines Valves Fuel Flow-meters Filters and Strainers

Quantity Indicators Warning Components Fuel Drains Heaters

Fuel Pumps

Fuel pumps are used to move fuel through the system then gravity feed is insufficient There are three main functions of fuel pumps, they are to move fuel from:

The tanks to the engines One tank to another The engine back to the tanks

Fuel-Pump Requirements
Engine fuel systems require main pumps and in some systems emergency pumps These requirements depend on the type of engines installed on the aircraft

Fuel Tanks
Fuel systems on different aircraft may use several types of fuel tanks The three basic types of fuel tanks used on aircraft are:

Integral Rigid Removable Bladder

Integral Fuel Tanks

Integral Fuel Tanks are commonly located in the aircrafts wings or fuselage These tanks are ones that are built into the structure of the aircraft and generally can not be removed Integral Fuel Tanks are formed by the actual structure of the aircraft The seams are sealed, usually with synthetic rubber, to produce an area inside the aircraft structure which will contain the fuel This type of tank is used in some light highperformance aircraft and turbine-powered transports

Rigid Removable Fuel Tanks

Rigid removable fuel tanks are often made of aluminum components that are welded together These tanks are installed in compartments specifically made for the tank The tanks may be held in place with padded straps This type of tank is often found on more expensive light aircraft and reciprocatingengine-powered transports

Bladder Type Fuel Tanks

Bladder type fuel tanks are basically a reinforced rubberized bag These tanks are installed in compartments which support the weight of the fuel The tank is held in place with buttons or snaps on the bottom and sides of the tank This type of tank is usually found on light aircraft and some turboprop and turbinepowered aircraft

Fuel Lines

Fuel lines on aircraft are either made of rigid metal tubing or flexible hose Most of the fuel lines are the rigid type which are usually made of aluminum alloys The flexible hose fuel lines are either made of synthetic rubber or Teflon The diameter of tubing used is decided by the engines fuel requirements


Fuel selector valves are used in aircraft fuel systems to:

Shut off fuel flow Cross-feed Transfer fuel

Selector valves may be operated manually or electrically depending on the installation

Filters and Strainers

Fuel is usually strained at three points in the system Through a finger or bootstrap strainer in the bottom of the fuel tank Through a master strainer which is usually located at the lowest point in the system Through a third strainer near the fuel control unit

Quantity Indicators

Inverted float gauge Rotating dial gauge Upright float gauge Sight-glass gauge

Resistance Capacitance

Fuel Subsystems
Some aircraft fuel subsystems allow for fuel: Jettison Heating Cross-Feeding

Fuel Jettison
The fuel jettison system comprises a combination of fuel lines, valves, and pumps provided to dump fuel overboard during an in-flight emergency This will reduce the weight of the aircraft so an emergency landing is possible

Fuel Heating
Fuel heating is necessary for turbine engines to thaw ice particles in the fuel that would otherwise clog the filters Fuel is routed through a heat exchanger that uses either engine oil or compressor bleed air to bring the fuel up to an acceptable temperature

Cross Feeding
Cross feed systems allow the flow of fuel from any of the tanks to any of the engines Some reasons that this system might be used are:

Engine failure Problem with one or more fuel tanks Redistribute fuel for weight and balance purposes