There are a wide range of aircraft heating systems available, all of which are designed according to the aircraft in which they are installed. Regardless of the type of heating system or safety features it is equipped with, it is always important to reference the specific aircraft operator’s manual to better understand the system’s complexities. For instance, each heating system has different repair and inspection criteria that should be accurately adhered to. In this blog, we will outline a few of the most common aircraft heating systems, their characteristics, and how they work.
Fuel Fired Heaters
Available as either a small mounted or portable space-heating device, fuel fired heaters are the first aircraft heating system type we will cover. In fuel fired heaters, fuel is brought to the heater by piping it through a fuel tank or tapping it into the aircraft fuel system. First, a fan blows air into a combustion chamber, and a spark plug or other ignition device lights the fuel-air mixture. Then, on the exterior of the combustion chamber, a second, larger tube conducts air around the combustion tube’s outer surface, and a second fan pushes the hot air into tubing to direct it towards the interior of the aircraft. As this process involves the transfer of fuel, the system includes a built-in safety switch that inhibits fuel from flowing unless the fan is working.
Exhaust Heating Systems
Exhaust heating systems serve as the simplest type of aircraft heating system and are utilized on a majority of light aircraft. They are generally used to route exhaust gasses away from the engine and fuselage while reducing engine noise. More than that, exhaust systems can provide a heat source for the cabin and carburetor. Keep in mind that a defective exhaust heating system can result in carbon monoxide poisoning, a decrease in engine performance, and an increased potential for fire, so it is important to keep up a regular maintenance schedule.
Combustion Heater Systems
Combustion heaters, or surface combustion heaters, are frequently utilized to warm up the cabin of larger commercial aircraft. With such a system, aircraft fuel is burned in the combustion chamber or a tube to generate heat, and the air making its way around the tube is heated and ducted to the cabin. When the heater control switch is turned on, airflow, ignition, and fuel are supplied to the heater, and as long as the heater control switch remains on, airflow and ignition are constant within the burner chamber. If heat is required, the thermostat is activated, which then turns on the fuel solenoid, enabling fuel to spray into the burner chamber. Finally, fuel mixes with air inside the chamber and is ignited by the spark plug in order to produce heat.
Bleed Air Heating Systems
Bleed air heating systems are primarily employed on turbine-engine aircraft, and they work by ducting extremely hot compressor bleed air into a chamber where it is mixed with ambient or recirculated air to cool the air to a usable temperature. From here, the air mixture can be ducted into the cabin. In this system, there are several safety features like temperature sensors that prevent excess heat from making its way into the cabin, check valves to prevent a loss of compressor bleed air, and engine sensors to eliminate the bleed system if the engine becomes inoperative.
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