You are on page 1of 6

# WILJAM FLIGHT TRAINING

Chapter 8.7
Fuel Gauging
Introduction
Fuel quantities and flows are essential measurements for the safe and efficient conduct of a
flight. Fuel quantity is of great interest to the flight crew, since there must be sufficient fuel on
board to complete the flight, and also maintain adequate reserves. A check on the amount of
fuel remaining against the planned quantity at significant route points will reveal any excessive
fuel burn. Fuel quantity may also be given in volume or mass.
Measurement of Fuel Quantity
The following types of fuel contents gauges exist:Float Type.
This type of gauge may be either electrical or mechanical. In a direct
reading mechanical fuel gauge a float drives a pointer directly, via gearing and a
magnet. The pointer rotates over a dial, which is calibrated in units of volume, eg.
gallons, and is separated from the fuel.

The electrical gauge is similar to the mechanical type, except that in this system the
float is arranged so that it drives an electrical design type transmitter, which enables the
gauge to be positioned remotely from the fuel tanks.
Ratiometer Type Fuel Gauge. This type of system is most commonly used on light
aeroplanes and indicates the quantity of fuel by volume in a fuel tank.

8-7-1

## WILJAM FLIGHT TRAINING

As the level of the float changes, it moves a wiper arm, which alters the resistance of a
variable resistor, and changes the overall resistance in the circuit. This in turn will alter
the current flow in a DC circuit and will give an indication on a gauge similar to a
voltmeter or ammeter. The gauge uses two opposing magnetic fields and a pointer,
which react to the ratio of the current flow in the two sections.
The float and resistance systems will only be accurate when the aeroplane is in steady
straight and level flight. Additionally if the aeroplane accelerates or the temperature
changes the volume of fuel indicated on the gauge will also vary. This type of gauge
will also be subject to inaccuracies if the voltage fluctuates, which may be caused by
voltage regulator settings or a weak battery.
Capacitance Type of Fuel Gauge.
This system is the most common type used on
modern jet engine aeroplanes, and uses an electronic fuel-measuring device, which
indicates fuel quantity. The quantity is measured in mass or weight in pounds or
kilograms, and not volume. The principle used in this type of gauge is that the
capacitance of a capacitor of fixed dimensions is dependent on the dielectric between
the plates. The tank units that form the plates of a capacitor consist of two concentric
tubes, as shown below.

The space between the plates is filled with fuel, air, or a mixture of both, forming the
dielectric of the capacitor; thus the capacitance of the tank units will be directly proportional
to the amount of fuel in the tanks. The dielectric constant of jet engine fuel compared to air
is approximately 2:1. A simplified capacitance bridge circuit is shown below.

8-7-2

## WILJAM FLIGHT TRAINING

If the two capacitances are equal, the voltage drop across them will also be equal, and the
voltage between the centre tap and point P will be zero. If the fuel quantity increases the
tank units capacitance will similarly increase, and the bridge circuit will become unbalanced.
A voltmeter will therefore indicate a voltage, which is proportional to the change in
capacitance, and hence fuel mass. This is useful with jet engines because the amount of
thrust being produced by them is more a factor of the amount of mass consumed, rather
than the volume of fuel consumed. This system also enables accurate readings to be
produced in large or irregular shaped fuel tanks. A number of probes are normally fitted in
each tank, depending on its size, and are connected in parallel, which ensures that the
indications remain the same regardless of the attitude or wing flex of the aeroplane. The
capacitors must also be matched or characterised to their specific locations, and the sum of
their capacitance gives a measure of the actual quantity of fuel in the tanks. The tank units
are connected to an amplifier in place of a voltmeter, and the output drives a pointer, which
shows the total mass of fuel in the tank.
Any changes in temperature will also affect the density of fuel, so the volume occupied by a
given quantity of fuel will increase if the temperature increases, and its density will fall. To
compensate for this error, a balancing (short) capacitance unit is installed at the lowest part
of the tank where it will be totally immersed whenever there is a useable quantity of fuel in
the tank, as shown below.

8-7-3

## WILJAM FLIGHT TRAINING

By totally immersing this unit, the only variation in the capacitance it will measure will be due
to changes in the fluid density. This variation is thus used to adjust the calibration of the fuel
quantity probes.
If there is a significant amount of water in the tank, it will lie at the bottom of the fuel tank
and will also affect the compensating or balancing probe, which will result in an incorrect
adjustment of the calibration. Foe example if the tanks were drained and then refilled to the
same level with water, the pointer will tend to move up the scale to a new point of balance.
This is because water has a greater density and dielectric constant than aeroplane fuel
This method of quantity measurement may also be used for other fluids, eg. Hydraulics.
Fuel Totaliser
This device digitally displays the amount of fuel in each tank on a flight deck indicator and
provides an indication of the total amount of fuel on board the aeroplane, as shown below.

On some aeroplanes the Totaliser is combined with a gross weight (mass) indicator and uses
two digital scale windows as indicated.

8-7-4

## WILJAM FLIGHT TRAINING

The upper scale shows the sum of the individual tank readings and the lower scale shows the
aeroplanes gross weight, which is normally manually set after it has been loaded. As the fuel is
used, the fuel remaining, and the weight scales will both reduce.
On some indicators the flight crew may also be able to enter the zero fuel weight (ZFW) at the
commencement of the flight, so that the gross weight can be displayed throughout the flight.
Fuel Flow
Fuel flow metering systems are designed to provide the crew with a continuous indicationthe of
the instantaneous rate of fuel flow to each engine and in some instances the amount of fuel
consumed. Fuel flow is measured at the fuel intake of each engine (LP fuel supply line on a gas
turbine). If the fuel flows increases, for a particular engine power, it will indicate a reduction in
efficiency and probably an impending mechanical problem.
The basic method of measuring fuel flow is by a rotating vane flow meter, as shown on the next
page. In this system, the shaft carrying the vane will form the transmitter of a synchro
transmission system. The receiver rotor is attached to, and drives a needle moving against a
scale calibrated in fuel used per unit time, which can be either volume or mass related.

A more complex system, which is in common use in large aeroplanes, is the integrated flow
meter system, as shown below.

8-7-5

## WILJAM FLIGHT TRAINING

In this system the fuel flow to the engine is measured, and is not only presented on a suitable
scale, but is also passed to an integrator where it is processed (integrated) with respect to time
to obtain the amount of fuel used. The transmitter/sensor unit consists of a tube, narrowed at
the ends and fitted into the appropriate engine fuel supply line. Within the tube there is a motor
driven impeller through which the fuel passes, which makes the fuel swirl at a rotation rate that
varies with the flow rate. On leaving the impeller, the swirling fuel impacts a receiver turbine
and induces a rate of rotation of that turbine that is directly proportional to the swirl rate. This
rotation is electronically detected and transmitted to the fuel flow indicator via a synchro system.
Signals are also sent via the integrator, to the fuel-consumed indicator.

8-7-6