Aircraft fuel systems are complex setups that can vary greatly in aircraft of differing types and sizes. Nevertheless, the basic parts of the fuel system are the same in any aircraft. These are the tanks, cells, lines, valves, filtering units, and pumps. In this blog, we will focus on three of these parts: the fuel tanks, fuel cells, and fuel lines, providing an overview of each component and how they relate to each other.
An aircraft’s fuel tank varies in location, size, shape, and other factors depending on the requirements of the aircraft. However, common to all fuel systems is that the fuel tank or tanks must be positioned ideally to store and deliver clean fuel to the engine at the proper pressure and flow rates over a broad range of operating conditions. In many small single-engine aircraft, the fuel tanks are located above the wing. In these configurations, a gravity feed system is used to deliver fuel to the engine. Other aircraft feature fuel tanks located below the wing. In this case, pumps or fuel injectors are used to deliver fuel to the engine. Fuel tanks of this type can either be separate components or somehow integrated into the structure of the wing.
Regardless of their size, all modern aircraft are equipped with fuel cells in the fuel tank. These can be either fuel bladders or integrated fuel cells. Similar to fuel tanks, fuel cells must be made from a material that will not react with aviation fuel. Fuel bladders are most frequently made from rubber, though it is not uncommon for them to be made from nylon. Fuel bladders are advantageous due to their flexibility, which allows them to retain the shape of whatever cavity they are placed in. Additionally, they are ideal for reducing weight and can be easily removed for repair or replacement. Integrated fuel cells, often called a “wet wing” structure, are built directly into the wings of an aircraft and cannot be removed. They are designed so that once the aircraft has been sealed, the fuel is entirely prevented from leaking.
Finally, fuel lines provide the means of delivering fuel from the fuel tank to the aircraft engine As such, the regular maintenance of repair if the fuel lines is essential to the aircraft’s performance. Fuel lines can be made from aluminum alloy tubing or from rubber and Teflon hoses if flexibility is a necessity. In areas where fuel lines will be exposed to extreme heats, fire resistant hose is commonly used. The fuel lines also carry fuel through the fuel filters, which are installed near the fuel tanks. The fuel filters ensure any contaminants in the oil are removed before the fuel enters the engine.
When it comes to the aerospace and aviation industries, there is no room for error. This means it is critical to regularly inspect and maintain your fuel system, replacing parts as needed. When buying parts for your aircraft fuel system, or any other part of the aircraft, ensure you are getting them from a reputable source.
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