Aerospace

Advanced flight control, hydraulic, fuel, inerting, fluid conveyance, thermal management, pneumatic, and lubrication equipment. supports commercial and regional transports, military fixed-wing aircraft, general & business aviation.
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Next-Generation High-Temperature Flexible Hose Offers Unprecedented Reliability - High Temperature Flexible Hose - Parker AerospaceChallenged by the industry to advance the fire protection of hoses used in aircraft engine applications, engineers at the Parker Aerospace Stratoflex Products Division have used standard, low-cost materials to create a high-temperature flexible hose (HTFH) that redefines hose life expectancy. HTFH replaces traditional solutions, including both standard flexible hose and rigid pipe, to provide more durable fire protection, vibration damping, and thermal expansion flexibility to the feeder lines that supply the nozzles spraying fuel into the combustion chamber of jet engines.

Current state: increased vibration, problematic technologies

Vibration is a growing challenge for today’s engine manufacturers. While new lean-burn engines deliver a more complete combustion of fuel that results in lower NOx and particulate emissions, they can cause more vibration or rumble in the engine. Additionally, lighter and thinner components used to reduce engine weight are more susceptible to vibration. 

Traditional technologies used to connect fuel manifolds to nozzles are problematic, even potentially dangerous:

Next-Generation High-Temperature Flexible Hose Offers Unprecedented Reliability - Manifold - Parker Aerospace

  • A stainless-steel wire-reinforced polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) hose with a slip-over silicone sleeve and/or integral silicone fire sleeve, is a forty-year-old technology with a temperature limit of 450˚ F (232˚ C). While it provides good vibration damping, its temperature resistance is inadequate and its silicone cover is susceptible to thermal aging, requiring replacement in as little as five to ten years.
  • Rigid CRES or Inconel pipe is currently the technology most used due to its higher temperature rating of 1,200° F (650° C). However, the pipe is prone to high cycle fatigue vibration issues, resulting in limited life and replacement of the manifold. In addition, there are more stringent tolerance requirements associated with the precise and time-consuming manufacturing of the all-rigid manifold to ensure proper installation with the fuel nozzles and other manifold connections.
High-temperature innovation: Parker HTFH

Next-Generation High-Temperature Flexible Hose Offers Unprecedented Reliability - Manifold Closeup - Parker AerospaceOur high-temperature flexible hose is a win-win for engine manufacturers. With a temperature rating of 800°F for ambient conditions with minimal fuel flow of 0.07 gpm, the kink-resistant innovation has inherent damping capability, reducing vibration sensitivity. Plus, it is easier to install, less sensitive to tolerance stack up, offers equal fire-resistance performance to integral fire sleeve hose, and eliminates the problem of thermal aging of fire protection material.

Constructed with a robust, stainless steel outer braid that is superior to a silicone fire sleeve for abrasion and chafing, HTFH has an insulating layer that acts as a fire sleeve. This insulating layer:

  • Withstands 1,800°F (982°C) continuous exposure and short-term exposure of up to 3,000°F (1,650°C).
  • Is used as thermal insulation in many applications.
  • Provides minimal shrinkage at higher temperatures.
  • Offers no evidence of abrasion after impulse or vibration.
  • Has low absorption of fluids.
Next-Generation High-Temperature Flexible Hose Offers Unprecedented Reliability - HTFH Installation - Parker AerospaceConclusion

The end result of this advanced engineering is a product that is much less costly to maintain due to ease of replacement and significantly longer service intervals, projected to be minimum of 15 years.

Qualified in -4 and -5 sizes (1/4 inch and 5/16 inch diameters respectively) and adaptable to a wide variety of fitting styles and configurations, HTFH is redefining the market.

For additional information on Parker Aerospace systems and capabilities, please visit our website.

 

Next-Generation High-Temperature Flexible Hose Offers Unprecedented Reliability - HTFH Installation - Parker AerospaceThis post was contributed by Tracy Rice, strategic chief engineer – engines for Parker Aerospace Stratoflex Products Division.

 

 

 

 

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Maintaining Turbine Clearance Control of Aircraft Gas Turbines is More Critical than Ever - Airplane - Parker AerospaceAs global air traffic continues to grow, the need for cleaner, more efficient airplanes is rising right along with it. In an effort to reduce the global impact of pollution attributable to aviation, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) adopted new CO2 emissions standards in 2017 for commercial aircraft, requiring new aircraft type designs to meet these standards before delivery. These regulatory requirements, coupled with airlines’ desire to reduce fuel expenses and other costs, drive engine makers to seek every possible advantage in producing more efficient aircraft engines.

One way to reduce an aircraft engine’s emissions and improve engine performance is through active clearance control (ACC). This is achieved by managing the clearance between the gas turbine casing and the tips of the rotating blades, referred to as turbine tip clearance. An engine’s turbine clearance control system (TCCS) relies on turbine clearance control valves (TCCVs) to control this tip clearance by managing the thermal expansion of the turbine case that surrounds the turbine stages of the engine.

 Maintaining Turbine Clearance Control of Aircraft Gas Turbines is More Critical than Ever - RR Trent 97K - MTCCV - Parker AerospaceThe Fluid Systems Division of Parker Aerospace developed its line of TCCVs with a goal of exceeding customer requirements for reliability, safety, and performance. The product offers engine manufacturers a proven control mechanism that has not only undergone extensive testing but demonstrated improvements in engine fuel burn, which translate into measurable savings for its engine and airline customers. 

 

 

Turbine clearance control: helping engines maximize efficiency

Turbine tip clearance between the turbine blades and the turbine case is a key parameter that influences turbine efficiency and the propulsive efficiency. The tip clearance should be kept to a minimum value, considering the turbine blade and the case expansion resulting from temperature excursions during the entire operating envelope of the engine. These temperature excursions are a result of the extremely hot combusted gases that enter the turbine stage of the engine, downstream of the combustion chamber and provide the thrust required to power the engine. 

 Maintaining Turbine Clearance Control of Aircraft Gas Turbines is More Critical than Ever - TCCV in Engine - Parker AerospaceThe combusted air temperatures can be in excess of 2,000°F, resulting in the expansion of the turbine blades and the case, thereby increasing the tip clearance and loss of turbine efficiency. The net effect is that more fuel needs to be combusted to compensate for this loss of efficiency, in order to generate the required thrust, resulting in increased fuel burn and increase in specific fuel consumption.

 

Monitoring of the turbine temperatures controlled by TCCVs 

By controlling the thermal expansion and contraction of the engine’s turbine casing over its operating envelope, engine manufacturers can better optimize the turbine tip clearances in the engine. A proven method of controlling this clearance is to either direct cooler air around the turbine case to cool and contract the casing ‒ or ‒ to restrict the cooler air, allowing the casing to expand when required to compensate for the turbine blade expansion. thereby maintaining the tip clearance. 

This delicate balance is realized through temperature sensors in the engine that measure turbine air temperatures during the entire flight cycle. This information is relayed in real time to the engine’s full authority digital engine control (FADEC), an autonomous, system that monitors and controls all aspects of an engine’s operation, including its turbine tip clearance control system. 

Depending on the flight status, the FADEC sends electrical commands to the engine’s turbine clearance control valves, signaling them to incrementally open or close (modulate the flow through the valve), to control the case thermal expansion. The opening and closing of these valves ultimately controls the amount cooling air taken from the engine’s bypass flow to manage engine casing temperatures, thereby facilitating optimum blade tip clearance control. 

Parker’s TCCV consists of a butterfly valve actuated using an integral fuel-actuated actuator. The fuel actuator consists of a Parker electro-hydraulic servo valve (EHSV) integrated as part of the actuator. The EHSV receives an electrical command from the FADEC and directs the fuel flow appropriately for the actuator to either extend or retract the actuator rod. Actuator retraction or extension results in modulating the valve position to either fully open or fully closed or anywhere in between, depending on the stage of flight. 

The actuator and the valve position are monitored by a linear variable displacement transducer (LVDT), which is integrated within the actuator rod. The LVDT provides the position feedback to the FADEC, which through its built-in software deduces the position of the valve (hence, the TCCV flow). Therefore, the TCCV valve system forms a closed loop sub-system with the FADEC; it receives a command, executes, and relays back the result of its action back to the FADEC for further instructions.

 

Parker’s turbine clearance control valves: proven gatekeepers

Turbine clearance control valves operate in a hostile environment, being exposed to aircraft engine surrounding air temperatures that can range from -65° to 350° Fahrenheit. The valves also handle the contaminated air flowing through them, as well as engine-induced vibration, and continue to function throughout the engine life. 
 
 Maintaining Turbine Clearance Control of Aircraft Gas Turbines is More Critical than Ever - TCC Valve - Parker AerospaceTo survive and perform in this environment, Parker’s butterfly-type valve incorporates several design features to enhance valve life, reliability, and performance. Features such as specially designed dynamic seals have been validated for long-term performance under extreme conditions, enabling superior sealing capability, low friction, and high wear resistance. 

These seal designs are critical in ensuring that air flowing through the valve does not leak externally. This type of leakage is wasteful; not only does it rob the thrust-producing bypass air, it also results in less-than-optimum functionality of TCCV sub-system. Together the valve and actuator designs have a proven track record of meeting strict fire requirements during flight certification. The mechanical linkages between the actuator and the butterfly valve shaft are designed to withstand the vibration and endurance cycles required to ensure accurate position feedback and control of the TCCV system. 

 Maintaining Turbine Clearance Control of Aircraft Gas Turbines is More Critical than Ever - Servo Valve - Parker AerospaceParker’s Jet-Pipe® electrohydraulic servo valve (EHSV), designed and manufactured by the Parker Aerospace Control Systems Division. The EHSV is a proven, robust two-stage design that is contamination-resistant, providing the accuracy needed to precisely move the actuator to its commanded position, while providing the durability needed for long, trouble-free service life. 
 
Parker Aerospace’s Fluid Systems Division in Irvine, California, has been providing TCCVs to engine manufacturers for nearly 40 years, continually improving the design and performance of its valves, making them extremely accurate and durable. Our longstanding engine customers include Rolls-Royce, GE Aviation, and Pratt & Whitney, among others.

 

Tested and retested, again and again

 Maintaining Turbine Clearance Control of Aircraft Gas Turbines is More Critical than Ever - Testing Lab - Parker AerospaceParker’s Fluid Systems Division offers its customer the benefit of extensive in-house testing capabilities for its TCCVs as well as its full line of products and systems. Parker TCCVs are designed and tested to meet and exceed vibration and endurance life requirements. 

Complete endurance testing of the valves to multiple life cycles, which includes applying a full flight profile to simulate flight conditions and mimic valve performance in flight, helps ensure a TCCV design that has achieved maturity at entry into service. Our endurance test routines also include the introduction of contaminants to further prove the valves’ integrity. Additionally, we provide complete control system simulation models of the TCCV control system, utilizing either SIMULINK or Amesym for our engine customers, who in turn use this model within their larger engine control system model.

 

Engineered for the long haul, easily maintained

By working with our engine customers and aircraft operators, Parker FSD engineers have turned lessons learned into bankable savings for our end-use customers. The valves are designed for maintainability with the goal of lower removal and installation times on wing while achieving optimum repair and overhaul times. Put very simply, Parker valves offer lower total-lifecycle cost proposition for our customers. 

 

Conclusion

The extensively tested and proven technology of Parker’s turbine clearance control valves allows aircraft engine manufacturers to achieve their desired engine performance, including extended service life while reducing fuel consumption (lower specific fuel consumption) and fuel emissions. By helping airlines meet more stringent international standards for CO2 emissions, Parker and its engine manufacturing partners become part of a global commitment to ensure an environmentally responsible future for aviation.

For additional information on Parker Aerospace systems and capabilities, please visit our website.


 Maintaining Turbine Clearance Control of Aircraft Gas Turbines is More Critical than Ever - Sanjay Bhat - Parker AerospaceThis post was contributed by Sanjay Bhat, new business development manager for Parker Aerospace’s Fluid Systems Division.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Isolating and Dissipating the Impact of Lightning Strikes on Composite Wings - Parker Isolator - Parker AerospaceParker Aerospace’s Fluid Systems Division has developed critical fuel-vent and line static dissipating tubes in collaboration with OEM customers to safeguard today’s modern composite aircraft from the risk of fuel-tank ignition and serious safety incidents. 

 

Why composites for aircraft 

Isolating and Dissipating the Impact of Lightning Strikes on Composite Wings - Composite Material - Parker AerospaceOnce used only for light structural pieces or cabin components, carbon composites are now being utilized for wing and fuselage skins, engine components, and landing gear. Lightweight and strong, composites reduce weight and increase fuel efficiency while being easy to handle, design, shape, and repair. They also offer improved reliability and durability while reducing the number of heavy fasteners and joints in an aircraft, which are potential failure points.1  

Aircraft manufacturers have been attracted by the advantages of composites. New aircraft using composite wings provide lower fuel use per passenger than comparable aircraft.2 Carbon composites have been portrayed as the perfect aircraft material – except for in the way that they handle lightning strikes. 

 

The impact of lightning on aircraft 

Isolating and Dissipating the Impact of Lightning Strikes on Composite Wings - Lightning Strike - Parker AerospaceAccording to an article in Scientific American, “What happens when lightning strikes an airplane,” each U.S. commercial aircraft is struck by lightning more than once every year, usually attaching first to an extremity like nose or wing tip3.  

Aircraft with an aluminum fuselage and wings can readily conduct the charge from a lightning strike, allowing the current to move along the skin and pass back into the atmosphere. However, composites are significantly less conductive than aluminum. 

On composite structures, the current from a lightning strike does not have a highly conductive pathway that allows the electricity to transfer back into the atmosphere. Without dissipation, the lightning currents could ignite the fuel in the fuel tanks, fuel lines, and fuel vents. That’s why our fuel vent and line static isolating tubes are so valuable.  

 

Our fuel vent and line static isolating tubes 

Composite wings need isolating and dissipating tubes to slowly dispel the static charge from a lightning strike, thereby preventing arcing in the system. Installed in-line with the fuel lines and fuel vents, the tubes resist electrical energy and eliminate its transfer across the tube. This protects the fuel lines and the rest of the fuel system from possible combustion.  

 

Proven in the air 

Isolating and Dissipating the Impact of Lightning Strikes on Composite Wings - Honda Jet and Unmanned aerial vehicle- Parker AerospaceOur fuel and vent line static isolating tubes are tested and proven. The components are currently installed on all HondaJet business aircraft as well as Northrop Grumman Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles. Available in multiple diameters, including 1/2-, 3/4-, 1.0-, 1.25-, 1.5-, 1.75-, 2.0-, 2.5-, 3.0-, 3.5-, and 4.0-inch inner diameter, the tubes are available with ferrules on each end and tubes with a flange mid span to meet most installation requirements. 

 

Conclusion 

The growing use of composites in aircraft manufacturing will increase the need for technologies that maximize the advantages of composites while minimizing their limitations. Our fuel-vent and line static isolating tubes will continue to play a critical role in keeping more-composite aircraft safe from ever-present lightning strikes. 

 

For additional information on Parker Aerospace systems and capabilities, please visit our website.

 

Isolating and Dissipating the Impact of Lightning Strikes on Composite Wings - Glen Kukla - Parker AerospaceThis post was contributed by Glen Kukla, engineering team leader, Parker Aerospace, Fluid Systems Division 

            References
  1. http://www.aerospacemanufacturinganddesign.com/article/amd0814-materials-aerospace-manufacturing/ 
  2. http://www.ingenia.org.uk/Ingenia/Articles/505 
  3. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-happens-when-lightni/ 

 

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The History and Pedigree of Parker Aerospace Fluid Systems Division Fuel PumpsFor over 40 years, the Fluid Systems Division (FSD) of Parker Aerospace has been designing and building aircraft fuel boost and transfer pumps at its Elyria, Ohio, facility located just southwest of Cleveland. Parker, as a leader in the aerospace industry, is committed to supporting all aircraft manufacturing segments including general aviation, commercial, and military. Parker FSD is proud of its legacy and reputation in the industry and continues to work toward advancing fuel pump products through innovative technology that meets today’s advanced safety regulations while improving operating efficiency.

One clear focus on two types of fuel pumps

Fuel pumps are an integral component of any aircraft fuel system. Parker builds two types of pumps that are an integral part of the fuel delivery system: fuel boost pumps and fuel transfer pumps. 

Fuel boost pumps are designed to deliver the fuel from the primary tanks to the aircraft engine. Fuel transfer pumps are designed to move fuel from one tank to another to keep the primary tanks filled while maintaining the aircraft’s center of gravity. 

Fuel boost and transfer pumps come in numerous sizes and shapes based upon the application. Each pump is custom designed to optimize the efficiency of the fuel system and fit within the allocated installation envelope. Discharge pressures can reach 60 psig and flow rates can be as low as 0.5 gpm up to 250 gpm. Several electric drive options are also available, using DC or AC power. 

The History and Pedigree of Parker Aerospace Fluid Systems Division Fuel Pumps - Parker Fuel Pump and Parker Transfer Pump - Parker Aerospace

          
Proven fuel pump solutions

Parker offers its customers a broad line of proven fuel pumps that have undergone extensive qualification testing plus significant operational field experience. These factors, combined with the expertise of Parker’s engineering team, translates into low-risk, cost-effective solutions for both civilian and military aircraft. While Parker offers off-the-shelf fuel pumps from their product catalog, each application has unique specifications and can be fully customized to meet virtually any new or retrofit application. Parker is continually evaluating ways to ensure aircraft fuel systems operate as efficiently and safely as possible under all operating conditions.  

A significant and proud pedigree

The Fluid Systems Division has provided both fuel boost and transfer pumps for some key global aerospace programs, spanning the general aviation, rotor, commercial, and military markets. Some of the programs include:

  • Airbus A350
  • Beechcraft A100, B100, B200, E90
  • Bell 204, 205, 212, 412
  • Bell Canada 407 
  • Boeing A-160, F/A-18
  • Bombardier C Series CS100 and CS300, Dash 8, Global Express
  • COMAC C919
  • CASA CN235
  • Cessna Sovereign
  • Dornier 228 series
  • Embraer E170, E190, ERJ145, Legacy 450/500, Super Tucano
  • LearJet 45
  • Leonardo AW109, AW139 series
  • Lockheed Martin F-16, F-35
  • Northrop Grumman Global Hawk
  • Piaggio P.160, P.180
  • Raytheon Hawker 4000
  • Sikorsky CH-148, H-92, S-70, S-92, UH-60/SH-60
Fuel pump laboratory and testing capabilities

The Parker Aerospace Fluid Systems Division offers customers a full scope of fuel pump design, development, and manufacturing capability, strengthened by rigorous in-house testing capabilities. A dedicated testing laboratory includes numerous test facilities to verify pump performance using the guidelines of RTCA DO-160 and MIL-STD-810. 

The History and Pedigree of Parker Aerospace Fluid Systems Division Fuel Pumps - FSD Lab Testing - Parker Aerospace

Pump performance variation due to thermal, mechanical, and electrical variation is measured while testing in actual jet fuel. Rigorous design verification testing is performed at stages of development and production to ensure the optimum performance and long life of each Parker fuel pump. 

 

The History and Pedigree of Parker Aerospace Fluid Systems Division Fuel Pumps - Visual Inspections of Pump Components - Parker Aerospace

Parker Aerospace fuel pump laboratory capabilities include: 

  • Multi-tank test facility
  • Model fabrication shop
  • Rapid prototyping
  • Motor dynamometer
  • Electronics lab
  • AC and DC digital power supplies
  • Calibration test stands
  • Data acquisition and control systems
  • Endurance test stands
  • Power analyzers for electrical inputs
  • Temperature chambers
The Parker motor design center

Focused on advancing the science of motor technology, the Parker Motor Design Center (PMDC) allows FSD customers to achieve lower costs by incorporating proven design methods and manufacturing capabilities, in conjunction with rapid prototyping to produce a working motor in as little as six weeks. PMDC engineers have developed a proprietary motor design tool that optimizes motor geometry using magnetic finite element analysis (FEA), system simulation, and thermal analysis.

Design guidelines and safety regulations addressed by Parker’s pumps

The Fluid Systems Division is an industry leader in developing pump designs to meet FAR 25.981 safety guidelines for prevention of ignition sources inside fuel tanks. Parker is directly involved in industry committees that produce standards for both pump design and safety to contribute to improving the acceptance criteria used to evaluate today’s new aircraft.

For additional information on Parker Aerospace systems and capabilities, please visit our website.

 

The History and Pedigree of Parker Aerospace Fluid Systems Division Fuel Pumps - Bill Heilman - Parker AerospaceThis post was contributed by Bill Heilman, senior principal engineer, Parker Aerospace Fluid Systems Division.

 

 

 

 

 

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Making Light Work of High-Pressure Aerospace Fluid Conveyance Applications - Para-aramid Material - Parker AerospaceIt’s well known that aerospace applications of all types – whether for fuselage skin, structures, or systems and components – require materials offering a combination of lightweight strength and long-term durability. Since the Wright brothers, aircraft makers have been seeking solutions that optimize the balance between weight and strength. 

An entrant that has found its way into the arena of light-yet-strong aerospace materials is para-aramid. Similar to material known under the brand name Kevlar®, man-made para-aramid fibers exhibit a high strength-to-weight ratio and can be formed into threads or yarns for use in any number of applications.

 

Para-aramid material for lightweight aircraft hose and assemblies

The Stratoflex Products Division (SPD) of Parker Aerospace has been providing fluid conveyance hose and tube assemblies to the aerospace industry since 1990 and has introduced countless innovative solutions to reduce weight and increase the reliability of aircraft fluid conveyance systems.

Among SPD’s innovations is its para-aramid reinforced hose, available as its 3154 and 3158 hoses. Stratoflex 3154/3158 hose is widely specified for aircraft applications, including:

  • Landing gear hydraulic lines
  • Aircraft tail section hydraulic systems
  • Wing routing actuations
  • Hydraulic power generation
  • Mid- and aft-fuselage sections
  • Thrust reverser actuation systems (TRAS)

Making Light Work of High-Pressure Aerospace Fluid Conveyance Applications - Stratoflex Hoses - Parker AerospaceThe Stratoflex 3154 (3,000 to 4,000 psi) and 3158 (5,080 psi) line of hose is available in a range of working pressures and offers two key advantages over corrosion-resistant steel (CRES) wire-braided hoses: lighter weight and a minimum bend radius that is typically 50 percent smaller. These advantages make Stratoflex 3154/3158 easier to install and route in crowded aircraft equipment spaces while saving weight on the aircraft.

  Built for the long haul

Parker’s lightweight, high-pressure hose features a pure polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) inner tube, surrounded by one or two (depending on working pressure needs) para-aramid braid reinforcement layers. A special vapor barrier that prevents moisture ingress encases the braided reinforcement layer, and an outer chafe-resistant cover made of a nylon/polyester material protects the hose from environmental abrasion.

  Lightweight durability plus proven engineering expertise

Making Light Work of High-Pressure Aerospace Fluid Conveyance Applications - Aircraft Fluid Conveyance - Parker AerospaceParker Stratoflex 3154/3158 products meet or exceed aerospace standards when specifying lightweight aircraft hose. What really sets the products apart is Parker’s fluid conveyance system engineers’ extensive experience – which include hoses, couplings, swivels, regulators, valves, and fuses – on over 250 aircraft and engine models. SPD engineers are well versed in the design, routing, and clamping needed for fluid conveyance products throughout modern aircraft design.  

Making Light Work of High-Pressure Aerospace Fluid Conveyance Applications - Landing Conveyance - Parker AerospaceFor example, Stratoflex hoses are ideally suited for use in aircraft landing gear applications. Despite using a chafe-resistant outer cover, it is critical that the flexible hose is routed and clamped in a way that limits the effects of wind buffeting during takeoff and landing. Correct integration of the fluid conveyance within the landing gear system ensures proper performance and maximum life expectancy.

  Conclusion

With lightweight strength and durability as vital considerations for aerospace structures, systems, and components, the use of advanced materials is essential to every aircraft program. By integrating braided para-aramid reinforcement layers into its hose design, the Parker Aerospace Stratoflex Products Division is able to offer its customers a lightweight hydraulic hose that fits in tight spaces, in addition to system-level fluid conveyance expertise.

 

For additional information on Parker Aerospace systems and capabilities, please visit our website.

 

Making Light Work of High-Pressure Aerospace Fluid Conveyance Applications - Andrew Mau - Parker AerospaceThis post was contributed by Andrew Mau, chief engineer & advanced technologies manager, Parker Aerospace Stratoflex Products Division

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Developing a Next-Generation Aircraft Fuel Measurement System That Is Highly Accurate and Intrinsically Safe - Aircraft Control Panel - Parker AerospaceModern aviation owes much of its success to gas turbine engines that convert fuel into massive thrust, enabling large passenger aircraft to travel long distances at high speeds. Jet engines, however, require large fuel loads, most of which is carried in fuel tanks that span both of an aircraft’s main wings. The Airbus A380, for example, has a maximum fuel capacity of over 85,000 gallons. To ensure the safety of flight, the commanding pilot is required to accurately monitor and log fuel consumption rates to properly manage the plane’s weight and balance. 

Understanding the critical importance of in-flight fuel monitoring and continuously striving to advance aerospace technology, the Fluid Systems Division of Parker Aerospace has teamed with Oxsensis Ltd., a manufacturer of optical instrumentation used in harsh environments, to develop a unique optical-based system that will transform and simplify the next generation of aircraft fuel measurement systems. This new technology is expected to reduce installation time and maintenance costs with fewer components.

  Current fuel measurement systems use capacitance-based technology

The current capacitance-based technology used on most aircraft to measure fuel capacity is proven, safe, and reliable. Its architecture incorporates an array of approximately 20 to 30 capacitance probes that are mounted vertically throughout the fuel tanks. 

The probes act as variable capacitors, with the fuel acting as the dielectric. As the fuel level near the probe changes, changing the ratio of fuel-to-air in contact with the probe, the capacitance of the probe changes, allowing the system to measure the “wetted length” of the probe ‒ an empty tank has lower values of probe wetted length than a full tank. These measurements are made by a dedicated electronics box outside the fuel tank, by injecting a tiny time-varying electrical current via electrical wiring to the probes in the fuel tank.

Developing Next-Generation Aircraft Fuel Measurement System That Is Highly Accurate and Intrinsically SafeThis information is transmitted back to fuel gauging computers elsewhere on the aircraft, where the data is combined with other measurements such as fuel temperature and density, to compute the fuel quantity on board the aircraft. This data is then relayed to the pilot in the cockpit, and to other aircraft systems. 

While highly reliable, capacitance-based fuel measurement systems can be complex and require a great deal of time and expense during the installation stage. Typically, a total of 20 to 30 probes need to be installed throughout each of the wing tanks in most large commercial transports, in addition to corresponding electrical wiring needed to relay the probes’ data. This electrical wiring, combined with the increased trend in the aviation industry toward the use of composite materials, particularly in wing design, means measures must be taken to ensure that lightning strikes do not move through the wiring system, causing fuel tank combustion. A great deal of engineering and cost go into mitigating these risks.  

  A better way to measure aircraft fuel is on the horizon: SOHAPS

Developing a Next-Generation Aircraft Fuel Measurement System That Is Highly Accurate and Intrinsically Safe - Optical Sensor - Parker AerospaceParker is collaborating with Oxsensis to develop silica-based optical high-accuracy pressure sensor (SOHAPS) systems that will replace the 20 to 30 capacitance probes plus additional fuel property sensors. Instead, each tank would need only three

electromagnetic interference (EMI)-immune, non-electrical, optical sensors to measure fuel system pressure. 

Slated to be fully tested and ready for entry into service by the mid-2020s, SOHAPS will provide the next generation of business jets and commercial aircraft with a next-generation solution for fuel measurement. This system is a major advancement because it is as accurate as today’s capacitance system, but is far simpler in design, requires fewer sensors, is intrinsically safe, is immune to EMI, will require far less time to install in the aircraft, and is expected to reduce maintenance costs. 

As part of the joint development of the innovative new system, Parker and Oxensis are actively engaged with a major aircraft manufacturer in preliminary manufacturability and integration activities. 

This proven and innovative technology has demonstrated endurance success in land-based gas turbine applications for several years. The sensor technology developed in the SOHAPS program has the potential to be applied to multiple aerospace applications including hydraulic systems, lubrication pumps, landing gear, and other major systems. Parker is investigating these future possibilities as part of our ongoing commitment to ensure our customers’ success. 

  How SOHAPS fuel measurement systems are different

The joint development of the SOHAPS system combines Parker’s significant fuel system engineering, integration, and qualification abilities with Oxsensis’ unique optical pressure sensor capabilities. Unlike capacitance systems that measure the capacitance of the fuel in a system to compute remaining fuel volume, SOHAPS systems measure the pressure within the fuel tank and compute fuel volume. SOHAPS system data is transmitted to a single onboard computer via fiber optic cable, where the data is interpreted and relayed to the cockpit as remaining fuel information.
 
Developing a Next-Generation Aircraft Fuel Measurement System That Is Highly Accurate and Intrinsically Safe - Optical Based Sensors - Parker AerospaceThe sensor has been shown to provide more precision than currently available electrical pressure sensors, while also being suitable for low-temperature and high-vibration conditions. The use of fiber optics is expected to deliver a sensor that is immune to electromagnetic interference and completely free of any metallic or electrically conductive material. It also means that, by eliminating metallic wiring in the fuel tanks, the risk associated with the conduction of electricity due to lightning strikes is eliminated as well. 

  Simply less complex

The innovative SOHAPS system will greatly simplify aircraft fuel measurement systems. 

By needing as few as three sensors for an aircraft fuel tank, SOHAPS systems will require far less time to install during manufacturing, reducing installation cost, part numbers, and complexity.

Elimination of metallic wiring will also reduce manufacturing time as well as the risk of transmission of electrical charges as well as EMI interference and electrical discharge in the tanks.

SOHAPS systems will not require a relay electronics device to collect data for transmission to an onboard computer for data interpretation. All collected data goes directly to the onboard computer via optical cable.

In addition to measuring fuel quantity, other measurement capabilities are possible using the same set of onboard sensors, further reducing weight on the aircraft. These additional measuring capabilities include fuel temperature and fuel properties, eliminating the need for other types of sensors in the fuel system, and making the system equally capable of operating with today’s standard fuels and future fuel types

Due to the wide availability of optical data transmission equipment from mature industries such as the telecom industry, SOHAPS systems can take advantage of significant cost savings by using robust off-the-shelf components that can meet aircraft qualification standards.

  Lower maintenance costs are predicted

Due to far fewer parts in a SOHAPS system, maintenance costs are expected to be lower than current systems. And unlike capacitance systems, it is anticipated that optical-sensor-based systems will be capable of operating with any type of fuel, meaning that aircraft operators will no longer need to go to the trouble and expense of recalibrating their systems as they introduce new fuel types and fuel additives for their aircraft.

  Conclusion

Drawing on the expertise of Parker Aerospace and Oxsensis, silica-based optical high-accuracy pressure sensor technology is coming closer to market with advantages that include comparable or better accuracy than current capacitance systems, simpler design, the need for fewer sensors, the ability to operate with future fuel types, immunity to EMI, less time to install in the aircraft, and an expected reduction in maintenance costs. SOHAPS is the next generation of fuel measurement systems for major aircraft manufacturers to watch.

 

For additional information on Parker Aerospace systems and capabilities, please visit our website.

Developing a Next-Generation Aircraft Fuel Measurement System That Is  Highly Accurate and Intrinsically Safe - Dr. Lewis Boyd - Parker AerospaceThis post was contributed by Principal Investigator, Fuel Gauging & Sensors Dr. Lewis Boyd of the Parker Aerospace Fluid Systems Division.

 

 

 

 

 

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