At the high altitudes where turbine-powered aircraft typically fly, atmospheric conditions are often poor as the temperature of air is very low. In such conditions, fluids such as water can easily freeze, having the potential of causing various issues for performance and safety. One of the most dangerous types of moisture freezing is when the water within fuel condenses and changes into a solid. When this occurs, ice formations will create obstructions within the fuel tank, fuel filter, and other components, hindering the overall fuel consumption process. As the blockage of fuel is something that any pilot would want to avoid during flight, fuel heaters are extremely important. In this blog, we will discuss the most common ways in which aircraft fuel is kept warm, allowing you to best protect your aircraft during flight operations.
Aircraft fuel heaters are useful for increasing the temperature of fuel within a system, ensuring that formations of ice are removed or reduced by a significant degree. Additionally, warming the fuel also helps block ice formation before it has the chance to form, further protecting the system as a whole. Depending on the aircraft, a fuel heater may come in the form of an air/fuel heater or an oil/fuel heater. Air/fuel heaters increase fuel temperatures with the use of heated bleed air that is provided by a warm compressor. With an oil/fuel exchanger, on the other hand, fuel is heated in an exchanger with the use of hot engine oil. Generally, the oil/fuel exchanger is known as a fuel-cooled oil cooler, or FCOC.
In order to promote efficiency, fuel heaters are often designed to function intermittently so that heat is provided to fuel on an “as-needed” basis. From the cockpit, a switch will typically be provided to the pilot that allows them to direct hot air or oil through the system as desired. With the fuel temperature gauge and filter bypass indicators, the flight crew can efficiently monitor fuel temperature levels and conditions for proper heating. In other instances, aircraft fuel heaters may be fully autonomous for a decreased pilot workload.
Alongside the use of aircraft fuel heaters, various additives may also be mixed with fuel to increase protection. Fuel system icing inhibitors (FSII) are additives that are commonly mixed with aviation fuels to mitigate the chance of ice formation within fuel lines. It is important that FSII is equally distributed within the mixture of fuel, allowing it to depress the freezing point of water to a level closer to the fuel itself. While larger aircraft typically rely on aircraft fuel heaters alone to maximize their ice protection, FSII can be useful in the instance that the fuel heaters are inoperable so that the aircraft is still cleared to fly.
As the blockage of fuel can create hazardous flying conditions, all aircraft fuel heaters, heat exchanger equipment, fuel filters, and related parts should be regularly inspected, repaired, and replaced as necessary. When you are in the market for parts, rely on the most trustworthy distributors that can help you fulfill all your operational needs with ease. Luckily for you, Internet of NSN is here to serve as your strategic sourcing partner for all your operational needs.
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