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Fire Detection and Suppression


 The occurrence of a fire in an aircraft is an extremely serious event, since the structure is
unlikely to remain sound in the continued presence of flame or hot gases.
 The most likely place for a fire to start is the engine compartment. Fires may occur as a
result of mechanical damage leading to the engine breaking up or overheating, from pipe
or casing ruptures leading to the escape of hot gases which may impinge on the structure,
or from escaping fuel coming into contact with hot surfaces.
 Needless to say, everything that can be done to prevent the escape of fluids and to reduce
the risk of fire is done.
 Nevertheless it is prudent to install some means of detecting one and a means of
extinguishing it.
 Detection systems are usually installed in bays where the main and auxiliary power-
plants are located.
 The intention is to monitor the temperature of the bays and to warn the crew when a
predetermined temperature has been exceeded.

Components of Fire Detection System

 The system consists of a temperature measuring mechanism, either discrete or

continuous, control unit and a connection to the aircraft warning displays, as shown in

Figure Diagrams of discrete and continuous systems

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Operating Principle
 The temperature detection mechanism is usually installed in different zones of the engine
bay so that fires can be localised to individual areas of the power-plant. Discrete
temperature sensors usually take the form of bi-metallic strips constructed so that a
contact is made up to a certain temperature, when the strips part.
 A number of sensors are placed at strategic locations in the engine compartment, and
wired to cause the contacts to open, then the control unit
 Dual loop detection system detects the change in resistance of the series wiring and
causes a warning to illuminate in the cockpit.

 An alternative method is a continuous loop of tubular steel coaxial sensor which can be
routed around the engine bay.
 This sensor changes its physical and electrical characteristics when subjected to heat. This
change of characteristic is sensed by a control unit which causes a warning to light
 The resistance and capacitance of a loop is monitored continuously by a control unit. The
control unit will provide a warning signal when the resistance reaches a predetermined
value, as long as the capacitance is sufficiently high.
 Monitoring both parameters in this way reduces the potential for false recognition of fires
resulting from damage or moisture contamination of the element.
 Both discrete and continuous systems work as detectors of overheating or fire, but both
are susceptible to damage by the very condition they are monitoring.
 The fire or jet of hot gas the leads to the temperature rise can easily burn through the
wiring or the sensor.
 The system must be designed so that if this does occur, then the warning is not
extinguished. Equally the system must be designed so that no warnings are given when
there is no fire. Both these conditions are dangerous.
 The first because the crew may think that a fire has been extinguished, the second
because a system which continually gives spurious warnings may be disregarded when a
real fire occurs.
 Once a fire warning is observed a formal drill is initiated by the crew to extinguish it (the
fire). This will include shutting down the engine and isolating the fuel system at the
engine fire wall by closing a cock in the fuel system, and then discharging extinguisher
fluid into the bay.
 This is done by pressing a switch in the cockpit (often a switch built into the fire warning
lamp) which fires a cartridge built into a bottle containing a fluid such as BromoChloro-
diFluoro-methane (BCF).
 This causes a spray of fluid to be directed into the engine bay. Usually the bottles are
single shot.
 If, after discharging the bottle, the fire warning remains, the crew must decide if the
warning is genuine.

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 It should be noted that chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) endanger the ozone layer and are the
subject of much debate calling for a limitation in their use. This has resulted in the
development of new fluids for fire extinguishing, although some legacy aircraft may still
contain CFC based fluids.

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