How The Aircraft Fire-Protection System Works

Across all the possible hazards and dangers that an aircraft may face during operations, fires can prove to be one of the most dangerous. This is due to the presence of flammable fuels and electronics that are spread across the body of a typical aircraft, as well as the altitudes they operate at which makes the extinguishing of flames more difficult. As such, engineers have heavily researched, implemented, and improved upon various systems over the years that assist in protecting aircraft from the dangers posed by fires. Beginning with the detection of a fire to the extinguishing of flames, the robust fire-protection systems of aircraft function to ensure the safety of passengers and components throughout flight operations.

 For a fire to significantly spread across an aircraft and cause high levels of danger, it requires fuel to burn, an ignition source, and oxygen. Due to this, the best method of combating flames and minimizing damage is to separate and isolate fire zones. In order to carry out such a procedure, a number of passive and active fire-protection systems are implemented throughout the fuselage and aircraft compartments. With passive systems, fires can be controlled through the installation of various materials, vents, compartments, and more. Meanwhile, active systems take a more direct approach at combating flames, often including the means of detection and extinguishing.

One of the main zones in which fire dangers are combated passively is within the engine structures. By separating sources of fuel, components that may cause ignition, and flammable surfaces with the use of compartments, fires can be mitigated and controlled more easily. With highly flammable zones such as the combustor and compressor, firewalls and heat shields are used for protection and separation. Additionally, all flammable fluid lines are separated from electronics, and failsafes are put in place to provide a means of shutting systems down in the case of ignition. As the APU is also highly at risk for fires, the APU compartment is separated from the entirety of the aircraft by a firewall. Similar to sections such as the engine, the APU zone also contains methods of automatic shut-down in the case of an emergency.

As fires can worsen with an abundant source of fuel and air, it is crucial that fire vapors are steadily removed from ignition-prone areas to avoid any chance of eruptions. With proper ventilation and a steady supply of clean air, flammable vapors can be removed from ignition-prone fire zones safely. With the addition of air fans, vapors can be forced out from a zone while also allowing for hot components and systems to cool down. To further protect a fire zone from explosions and eruptions, such areas are specifically designed to contain a fire and prevent spread. During the engineering process of an aircraft, engineers will also rigorously test components to ensure that they cannot overheat to a point of becoming an ignition source. Lastly, bonding and grounding fire-prone components and electronics is also crucial to prevent arcing, sparking, or static electricity, all of which can cause an ignition of flammable materials and fluids.

While passive fire-protection systems are highly beneficial for preventing and containing fires, they are not perfect in their protection. As such, active fire-protection systems are needed to detect flames when an ignition occurs as well as combat them to stop the spread as quickly as possible. To detect a fire, a number of fire and overheat detectors are placed in various zones of the aircraft. In each zone, heat-sensing elements detect when an issue arises and immediately notify the pilot on whether overheating or a fire event is occurring. Such alerts can be seen from the flight deck within the cockpit, and they will denote where the issue is occurring and illuminate the specific control needed to handle or shut-off the system in question.

Once a fire has been detected, the flames can be extinguished through a number of means including portable extinguishers, fire bottles, distribution tubing, and much more. Within each fire extinguishing system or apparatus, high-pressure extinguishing-agents such as Halon 1301 may be used to combat spread and stop flames. As many areas in which a fire can occur may be impossible to reach from within the aircraft itself during flight, a system of tubes, nozzles, and controls allow for extinguishing agents to be sent to the fire zone. On most aircraft, major fire zones require two independent fire bottles each to ensure redundancy in the case of a failure.

As fires can pose a high risk to any aircraft, having the proper systems and equipment in place is crucial for safety. At ASAP Axis, we can help you secure the tank assembly fire extinguishing parts, support fire extinguishing components, fire bottles, and other fire-protection system items that you need with ease. Pursue our robust part catalogues at your leisure, and our team of industry experts are readily available 24/7x365 to provide competitive pricing and rapid lead-times on all that we carry. Get started today and experience how ASAP Axis is revolutionizing the part procurement process for our customers.


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February 16, 2021

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