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Aircraft fuel system components - fuel tanks and fuel lines

Aircraft fuel systems are complex and can vary greatly according to the size and type of aircraft in question. The basic parts of a fuel system, however, are the same for any aircraft: tanks, cells, lines, valves, filtering units and pumps. In this first article on aircraft fuel system components, we will look at fuel tanks, cells and lines - providing an overview of these elements and how they relate to each other.

Fuel tanks

Fuel tanks vary in location, size, and shape depending on the needs of the aircraft. What remains the same in every fuel system, is that the fuel tank (or tanks) must be ideally positioned to store and deliver clean fuel to the engine at the correct pressure and flow rate regardless of operating conditions.

Many small, single engine aircraft have fuel tanks located above the wing and use a gravity feed system to deliver fuel to the engine. Other tanks are located below the wing, using pumps or fuel injection to deliver fuel, and can either be separate components or integrated into the wing structure.

The material that a fuel tank is made from must not react chemically with aviation fuel. The most common material that is used is an aluminum alloy. Synthetic rubber fuel cells (bladders) are also often used.

Many fuel tanks have a sump and a drain at the lowest point of the structure, with fuel being drawn from the highest point. Some aircraft fuel systems are also provided with dump valves at this location to enable the pilot, co-pilot or engineer to safely and quickly jettison fuel during the flight to reduce the weight of the aircraft.

An essential part of an aircraft fuel tank’s design is maintaining the atmospheric pressure of the tank so that there is no risk of the tank buckling and collapsing when the aircraft is in a steep dive or glide. All fuel tanks have air vents - proportional in size to the size of the tank - at the top to account for rapid changes in air pressure. It is vital that these air vents are thoroughly checked as part of your aircraft fuel system maintenance to prevent blockage

Fuel cells

Modern aircraft of all sizes are equipped with fuel cells within the fuel tank. These can either be fuel bladders or integrated fuel cells.

As with fuel tanks, fuel cells must be made from a material that is non-reactive with aviation fuel. Fuel bladders are usually manufactured from rubber, although nylon is also sometimes used. Fuel bladders are flexible and retain the shape of the cavity in which they sit, are ideal for reducing weight and can be easily removed for repair or replacement.

Integrated fuel cells - often referred to as a ‘wet wing’ structure - are built into the wings of an aircraft and cannot be removed. They are specifically designed so that once the aircraft has been sealed, the fuel is completely prevented from leaking.

Fuel lines

Fuel lines provide the means to deliver fuel from the fuel tank to an aircraft’s engine, making maintenance and repair of this aircraft fuel system component essential. Fuel lines need to be securely attached to the aircraft with clamps and are manufactured from aluminum alloy tubing, and from rubber or Teflon hose where flexibility is required. In areas where fuel lines will be exposed to intense heat, fire resistant hose is used.

Repair and maintenance of aircraft fuel systems by Global Aircraft Services

When it comes to the aviation industry, there is no room for error and maintenance is essential. At Global Aircraft Services we provide repair and maintenance of all aircraft fuel system components. Our team of experienced aircraft technicians is highly qualified. They provide expert service with a quick turnaround time to prevent downtime of your aircraft.

For more information and advice on our professional aircraft fuel system maintenance and repair services, contact us at Global Aircraft Services today.