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Since fire is one of the most dangerous threats to the safe operation of an aircraft, manufacturers and operators
install a variety of overheat, fire detection, smoke detection, and extinguishing devices. Although the majority of
aircraft fire-protection systems are installed around the powerplant section, it is typically the responsibility of an
airframe technician to maintain all fire-protection systems regardless of where they are installed. To maintain the
highest level of reliability from these systems, a technician must be familiar with the basic operating principles,
troubleshooting, and repair of the various types of fire protection devices used on modern aircraft.

On early aircraft, the task of detecting smoke and

fire was reasonably easy because the pilot could see
most areas of the aircraft from the cockpit. However,
as larger and more complex aircraft were built, it
became nearly impossible for the crew to observe all
parts of an aircraft, and smoke and fire were often
not detected until the hazard was beyond control.
To resolve this problem, modern aircraft have
overheat and fire-detection systems installed to
provide an early warning of hazards so the crew can
take appropriate actions to reduce or eliminate
them. Figure 16-1. A fire triangle illustrates that a fire requires
fuel, oxygen, and enough heat to cause the fuel and
Overheat and fire-detection systems are designed oxygen to ignite. If any of these elements is missing, a fire
with components developed for specific tasks; so, will not ignite or continue to burn.
compared to other aircraft systems, maintenance
requirements for fire detection components are
somewhat specialized. To be able to keep these produced by combustion produces strong odors and
systems operating properly, a technician must is readily visible in most circumstances, so the crew
understand the basic operating principles and of an aircraft can physically detect a fire hazard in
maintenance practices used by various its early stages, provided they are in the same
fire-detection system manufacturers. compartment or area of the aircraft where the
fire occurs. However, many aircraft areas are
PRINCIPLES OF inaccessible to the crew, and, because of the design
FIRE-DETECTION SYSTEMS of the aircraft, airflow around and through various
For a fire to occur, three conditions must be met. compartments may prevent the hazard from being
There must be fuel, oxygen, and enough heat to detected until it is too late to remedy the problem.
raise the temperature of the fuel to its ignition or
kindling point. If any of these elements is missing or To provide a more thorough means of monitoring
removed, fire will not be sustained. [Figure 16-1] remote locations of an aircraft for smoke or fire,
detection systems are mounted in areas the crew
Chemically, fire is a reaction between oxygen and does not have access to in flight. Some examples of
fuel. This reaction reduces fuel to its basic chemical areas where these systems may be installed include
elements and in the process produces tremendous engine nacelles, baggage compartments, electrical or
amounts of heat. Paper, for example, is an organic electronic equipment bays and passenger lavatories.
material composed primarily of carbon and Depending on the types of combustible materials
hydrogen. When the paper is heated to its kindling that may smolder or ignite, the systems are designed
temperature in the presence of air, the carbon and to activate by various means to provide the most
hydrogen will unite with oxygen to form carbon accurate indication of an actual hazard. These sys-
dioxide (CO2 ) and water (H2O). Other elements in the
paper, and the products of incomplete combustion,
show up as ash and black carbon to form smoke.

In the case of smoke and fire hazards aboard aircraft,

the emission of smoke or the presence of flames and
heat makes it reasonably easy for a person to
physically detect a fire or overheat condition. The
Fire Protection Systems 16-3

tems monitor areas, commonly called fire zones, for may not only be ineffective, but may even cause the
heat, flames, the rate of temperature rise, or the fire to spread. Although these types of fires are not
presence of smoke. common in aircraft during flight, they can occur in
maintenance shops, where metal shavings may
CLASSES OF FIRES ignite when exposed to intense heat such as from a
To understand how and why different types of welding torch or high-voltage source.
fire-detection systems are better suited for certain
applications, you need to be familiar with the FIRE ZONES
classifications of fire as identified by the National Various compartments in an aircraft are classified
Fire Protection Association. These fires are into fire zones based on the amount and
identified in conjunction with the types of characteristics of airflow through them. The
materials consumed by a fire and are assigned airflow through a compartment determines the
different letter classifications as follows: effectiveness of fire-detection systems, as well as the
effectiveness of suppressant materials used to
A Class A fire is one in which solid combustible extinguish a fire. Fire zones are primarily classified
material burns, such as wood, paper, or cloth. by the amount of oxygen that is available for
Control cabins or passenger compartments are combustion and are identified as A, B, C, D, or X
examples of locations where Class A fires are likely zones.
to occur. Since the interiors of the passenger
compartment and of the cockpit are readily Class A zones have large quantities of air flowing
accessible to the crew, fire detection in these areas past regular arrangements of similarly shaped
is generally accomplished by visual surveillance. obstructions. The power section of a reciprocating
On the other hand, such fires can also occur in engine is a common example of this zone. For these
baggage compartments, where crew access is areas, a fire-extinguishing system is usually
limited or even impossible during flight. In these installed, but may not prove adequate since the
areas, monitoring is primarily accomplished with suppressant may be carried out into the
electrically powered smoke- or flame-detector air-stream before extinguishing the fire.
Class B zones have large quantities of air flowing
Class B fires are composed of combustible liquids past aerodynamically clean obstructions.
such as gasoline, oil, jet fuel, and many of the paint Heat-exchanger ducts and exhaust manifold
thinners and solvents used in aviation maintenance. shrouds are usually of this type, as are zones where
On an aircraft, these classes of fires typically occur the inside of the cowling or other enclosure is
in engine compartments or nacelles, and in smooth, free of pockets, and adequately drained so
compartments that house an auxiliary power that leaking flammables cannot puddle. For
unit (APU). Since operating temperatures within example, turbine engine compartments are in this
these areas can be extreme, overheat detection zone class, if the engine surfaces are
systems, which sense the rate of temperature rise, aerodynamically clean and a fireproof liner is
are often used to monitor the zone for the presence installed to produce a smooth enclosure surface
of fire or overheat conditions. With these types of over any adjacent airframe structure. Class B zones
monitoring devices, false alarms are less likely than are usually protected by temperature sensing
with other types of detection systems. elements or flame and smoke detection systems as
well as extinguishing equipment, to provide a means
Class C fires are those that involve energized of controlling a fire if one should occur.
electrical equipment. These fires require special
care because of the dangers from the electricity, in Class C zones have relatively low airflow through
addition to those from the fire itself. Such fires are them. An auxiliary power unit (APU) compartment
generally confined to electrical and electronic is a common example of this type of zone. These
equipment bays and to areas behind electrical may be protected by a fire-detection and extin-
control panels. Since the initial stages of electrical guishing system, or the compartment may have
equipment fires are usually preceded by large provisions for isolating flammable materials such
amounts of smoke, these areas of an aircraft are as fuel, oil, and hydraulic fluids.
generally monitored by smoke-detection systems.
Class D zones have very little or no airflow. These
Class D fires involve burning metals such as magne- include wing compartments and wheel wells,
sium, and are difficult to extinguish. Using the where little ventilation is provided. Due to the lack
wrong type of extinguishing agent with these fires of airflow, fire-extinguishing systems are
16-4 Fire ProtectonSystems

not necessary since the fire will self-extinguish as it units should also be lightweight and easily
consumes the atmosphere. However, fire-detection adaptable to any mounting position and must
systems are often installed in Class D zones to warn also operate directly from the aircraft power
the crew that damage may have occurred to airframe system, without inverters. In addition, when
components, so that corrective actions may be the detectors are not sensing a hazard, there
taken. For example, a fire in a wheel well should should be minimal requirements for electricity
self-extinguish due to lack of air, but the wheels and to power the system.
tires may be damaged. A fire-detection system will
8. Each detection system must actuate a cockpit
warn the flight crew, so that special precautions
light indicating the location of the fire, as well
may be taken during the landing to preclude further
hazards. as an audible alarm.
9. In the case of multi-engine aircraft, the detec
Class X zones have large quantities of air flowing tion system must consist of a separate sensing
through them and are of unusual construction, circuit for each engine.
making fire detection and uniform distribution of
an extinguishing agent very difficult. Zones There are a number of overheat and fire-detection
containing deeply recessed spaces and pockets systems that satisfy these requirements, and a single
between large structural formers are of this type. aircraft may utilize more than one type.
Fires in Class X zones will need twice the amount
of extinguishing agent normally used in a Class A FIRE-DETECTION/OVERHEAT
REQUIREMENTS FOR OVERHEAT AND Engine fire-detection systems generally fall into two
FIRE-DETECTION SYSTEMS categories: spot-detection type systems and
Modern detection systems have been proven to be continuous-loop type systems. With a spot-detection
highly reliable when properly maintained. These type system, individual fire detectors, or switches,
systems consist of electrical or electronic sensors are used to detect a fire. Such detectors must be
that are installed in remote locations. The sensors placed in locations where a fire is likely to occur,
warn the operator of impending hazards by because with this type of system a fire warning
sounding an audible alarm and illuminating a sounds only when a fire exists in the same location
warning light that indicates the location of the as the detector. The continuous-loop type system
hazard. Before these systems are approved by the works on the same basic principle as the spot-type
FAA for installation in an aircraft, the manufacturer fire detectors, except that a single switch in the
must prove that the fire-detection system design form of a long inconel tube is used instead of
meets the following criteria: several individual switches. The small-diameter
inconel tube is run completely around an engine
1. The system must be constructed and installed nacelle or an area that surrounds an auxiliary power
in a manner that prevents false warnings under unit, thus allowing more complete coverage than
all flight and ground operating conditions. spot-type detection systems.
2. There must be a rapid indication of a fire and an
accurate indication of the fire's location. The most common types of fire detection systems
found in modern aircraft include Fenwal, the
3. The system must have an accurate indication Kidde, the Lindberg, the Systron-Donner, and the
that a fire has been extinguished. flame-detector system.
4. The system must automatically reset once a fire
is extinguished, to provide an immediate indi FENWAL SYSTEMS
cation if the fire re-ignites. Fenwal produces a thermoswitch fire-detection sys-
tem, a thermocouple fire-detection system, and a
5. When there is a fire, there must be a continuous continuous-loop fire-detection system.
indication for its duration.
6. The detection system must have a means for THERMOSWITCH DETECTOR
electrically testing the integrity of the detection- A thermoswitch fire detection system is a spot-type
system circuitry from the cockpit. detection system that uses a number of thermally
activated switches. Each switch, or sensor, consists of
7. The detector or sensing units must be able to a bimetallic thermoswitch that closes when heated to
resist exposure to oil, water, vibration, extreme a predetermined temperature. [Figure 16-2]
temperatures, and maintenance handling. The
Fire Protection Systems 16-5

To provide for circuit testing, a test switch is

installed in the cockpit. Once the test switch is
depressed, power flows to a relay that provides a
ground to the warning light, simulating a closed
thermoswitch. Once grounded, the warning light
illuminates only if there is no break in the warning
circuit. In addition to the test feature, most
fire-detection circuits include a dimming relay for
night operations that, when activated, alters the
warning circuit by increasing resistance. The
Figure 16-2. With a thermoswitch detector, the actual increased resistance reduces the amount of current
switch is mounted inside a stainless steel housing. If a fire flowing to the light. In most airplanes, several
starts, the switch housing heats up and elongates, causing circuits are wired through the dimming relay so all
the contact points to close. To adjust a thermoswitch, the the warning lights may be dimmed at the same
housing must be heated to a specified temperature and
then a tension adjustment is turned in or out until the con- time.
tacts just close. In most cases, this adjustment is set by the
detector manufacturer and is not adjusted in the field. Double-Loop System
In a double-loop system, all of the detectors are
connected in parallel between two complete loops
of wiring. The system is wired so that one leg of the
There are two basic types of thermoswitch systems,
circuit supplies current to the detectors while the
the single loop and the double loop.
other leg serves as a path to ground. With this
Single-Loop System double-loop arrangement the detection circuit can
With a Fenwal single-loop system, all of the withstand one fault, either an open or short circuit,
thermoswitches are wired in parallel with each without causing a false fire warning. For example, if
other, and the entire group of switches is the ground loop should develop a short, a false fire
connected in series with an indicator light. In this warning will not occur, because the loop is already
arrangement, once a thermoswitch closes, the grounded. On the other hand, if the powered loop
circuit is completed and power flows to the warning shorts, the rapid increase in current flow would trip
light. [Figure 16-3] a relay that causes the powered loop to become the

Figure 16-3. Fire detection systems using multiple thermal switches are wired so that the switches are in parallel with each other
and the entire group of switches is in series with the indicator light. When one switch closes, a ground is provided for the circuit
and the warning light illuminates.
76-6 Fire ProtectonSystems

Figure 16-4. With the double-loop thermoswitch system shown here, wire loop A is positive while wire loop B is negative.
However, if an open or short develops in wire loop A, the sudden rush of current will activate a relay that causes the positive loop to
become negative and the negative loop to become positive.

ground and the grounded loop to become powered. produces a current in the thermocouple circuit and
[Figure 16-4] activates a warning light and horn. [Figure 16-5]

THERMOCOUPLE DETECTOR In most thermocouple systems, the sensitive relay,

A thermocouple-type, Edison fire-detector system is slave relay, and a thermal test unit are contained in
similar to a thermoswitch system in that they are a relay box. A typical relay box can contain from
both spot-type detection systems. However, a one to eight identical circuits, depending on the
thermocouple detector initiates a fire warning when number of potential fire zones. The thermocouples
the temperature of the surrounding air rises too control the operation of the relays, while the relays
rapidly (warms too fast), rather than responding to a control the warning lights. The test circuit includes
preset temperature as does the thermoswitch a special test thermocouple that is wired into the
detector. detector circuit and a small electric heater. The test
thermocouple and heater are mounted inside the
A thermocouple consists of a loop of two dissimilar relay housing and, when the test switch in the cock-
metal wires such as chromel and constantan that are pit is closed, current flows through the heater,
joined at each end to form two junctions. When a which heats the test thermocouple. The temperature
temperature difference exists between the two difference between the test thermocouple and the
junctions, electrical current flows and a warning reference thermocouple produces a current flow
light is activated. In a typical thermocouple system, that closes the sensitive relay and slave relay so the
one or more thermocouples, called active warning light can illuminate. Approximately 4
thermocouples are placed in fire zones around an mil-liamperes of current is all that is needed to close
engine while a separate thermocouple, called the the sensitive relay and activate the alarm.
reference thermocouple, is placed in a dead-air
space between two insulated blocks. Under normal The total number of thermocouples used in a par-
operations, the temperature of the air surrounding ticular detector circuit depends on the size of the
the reference thermocouple and the active fire zone and the total circuit resistance. Typically,
thermocouples are relatively even, and no current is circuit resistance is less than five ohms. In addition,
produced to activate a warning light. However, most thermocouple circuits contain a resistor con-
when a fire occurs, the air temperature around the nected across the slave relay terminals. This resistor
active thermocouples rises much faster than the air absorbs the coil's self-induced voltage when current
temperature around the reference thermocouple. The
difference in temperature
Fire Protection Systems 16-7

Figure 16-5. In a thermocouple fire detection circuit, the wiring system is typically divided into a detector circuit, an alarm circuit,
and a test circuit. When a temperature difference exists between an active thermocouple and the reference thermocouple, current
flows through a sensitive relay coil. When the sensitive relay closes it trips the slave relay, which, in turn, allows current to flow
to the warning light.

ceases to flow through the coil and the magnetic In the Fenwal system, the metal inconel tube uses a
field collapses. If this self-induced voltage were not single wire electrode made with pure nickel. The
absorbed, arcing would occur across the sensitive pure-nickel electrode is surrounded by ceramic
relay contacts, causing them to burn or weld. beads to prevent the electrode and conductor from
touching each other. The beads in this system are
CONTINUOUS-LOOP DETECTOR wetted with a eutectic salt, which has an electrical
In addition to a thermoswitch detection system, resistance that varies with temperature. [Figure 16-7]
Fenwal also produces a continuous-loop type sys-
tem that consists of a single fire or overheat-sensing
element that varies in length, depending on the size
of the fire zone. A typical sensing element can be
anywhere from 1 foot to 15 feet long. As mentioned
earlier, the sensing element used in a
continuous-loop fire detection system consists of a
flexible, small-diameter inconel tube. [Figure 16-6]

Figure 16-7. A Fenwal continuous-loop sensing element

consists of a sealed inconel tube containing a single center
conductor and ceramic beads wetted with a eutectic salt.

The center conductor protrudes out each end of the

inconel tube where an electric terminal is affixed to
the electrode. Current is then applied to the con-
Figure 16-6. Fenwal continuous-loop fire detection ele-
ments sense a large area for fire and overheat conditions. In ductor while the outer tube is grounded to the air-
this picture, a continuous-loop detector can be seen run- craft structure. At normal temperatures, the eutectic
ning through an area inside an engine cowling. salt core material prevents electrical current from
16-8 Fire ProtectonSystems

flowing between the center conductor and the tube.

However, when a fire or overheat condition occurs,
the core resistance drops and current flows between
the center conductor and ground, energizing the
alarm system.
The Fenwal system uses a magnetic amplifier con-
trol unit. This unit is a non-averaging controller that
supplies power to the sensing element and sounds
an alarm when the circuit to ground is completed
through the inconel tube. [Figure 16-8]

Figure 16-9. A Kidde sensing element consists of a sealed

inconel tube containing two conductors embedded in a
thermistor material.

ground, while the second wire is a positive lead.

When a fire or overheat occurs, the resistance of the
thermistor material drops, allowing current to flow
between the two wires to activate an alarm.

Each conductor is connected to an electronic

control unit mounted on separate circuit cards. In
addition to constantly measuring the total
resistance of the full sensing loop, the dual control
unit provides for redundancy even if one side fails.
In fact, both the Fenwal and Kidde systems will
detect a fire when one sensing element is
inoperative, even though the press-to-test circuit
does not function, indicating that there is a fault in
the system.
Figure 16-8. With a Fenwal continuous-loop fire detection
system, AC voltage is applied to the sensing element LINDBERG SYSTEM
through the control unit. Once the air surrounding the sens- The Lindberg fire detection system is a pneumatic
ing element reaches a predetermined temperature, the continuous-loop type system consisting of a
resistance of the eutectic salt within the element decreases stainless steel tube filled with an inert gas and a
enough to allow current to flow to ground. The control unit
then senses the flow of AC current and closes a relay which discrete material that is capable of absorbing a
grounds the warning circ uit and illuminates the portion of the gas. The amount of gas the material
warning light. can absorb varies with temperature. One end of the
tube is connected to a pneumatic pressure switch
called a responder, which consists of a diaphragm
KIDDE SYSTEM and a set of contacts. [Figure 16-10]
The Kidde system is also a continuous-loop type
system consisting of a single overheat-sensing ele-
ment that varies in length. The sensing element
consists of a rigid, preshaped inconel tube with two
internal wire conductors. The conductors are
embedded in a thermistor, or thermal resistor mate-
rial, to prevent the two electrodes from touching
each other and the exterior casing. Like the eutectic
salt used in the Fenwal system, the thermistor mate-
rial has an electrical resistance that decreases as the
temperature increases. [Figure 16-9]
Figure 16-10. The sensing element used with a Lindberg
continuous-loop system consists of a stainless steel tube
One of the wires is electrically grounded to the that is filled with an inert gas and a gas absorbing material.
outer tube at each end and acts as an One end of the tube is sealed while the other end is
internal connected to a diaphragm switch.
Fire Protection Systems 16-9

Figure 16-11. With a Lindberg fire-detection system, power is supplied to both the control unit and test unit by the AC bus. When
a fire or overheat condition exists, the diaphragm switch closes, completing the circuit for both the warning light and the bell.

When the temperature surrounding the sensing ele- wrapped with an inert metal tape or inserted in an
ment rises because of a fire or overheat condition, inert metal tube. One end of the sensor tube is con-
the discrete material within the tube also heats up nected to a responder assembly containing a
and releases the absorbed gas. As the gas is released, diaphragm switch that provides a warning for both
the gas pressure within the tube increases and an overheat condition and a fire.
mechanically actuates the diaphragm switch in the
responder unit. Once the diaphragm switch closes, Like the Lindberg system, the Systron-Donner sys-
the warning light illuminates and the alarm bell tem's principle of operation is based on the gas law:
sounds. Because the Lindberg system works on the if the volume of a gas is held constant and the tem-
principle of gas pressure, it is sometimes referred to perature increases, gas pressure also increases. The
as a pneumatic system. [Figure 16-11] helium gas surrounding the titanium wire provides
the systems averaging or overheat function. At nor-
To test a Lindberg system, low-voltage alternating mal temperatures, the helium pressure in the tube
current is sent through the element's outer casing. exerts an insufficient amount of force to close the
This current heats the casing until the discrete overheat switch. However, when the average tem-
material releases enough gas to close the contacts in perature along the length of the tube reaches an
the diaphragm switch and initiate a fire warning. overheat level, the gas pressure increases enough to
When the test switch is released, the sensing ele- close the diaphragm switch, which activates the
ment cools allowing the discrete material to alarm. Once the source of the overheat condition is
reabsorb the gas. Once absorbed, the contacts in the removed, the helium gas pressure drops and the
diaphragm switch open and the fire warning stops. diaphragm switch opens.

SYSTRON-DONNER SYSTEM The system's fire detection, or discrete, function is

The Systron-Donner system is another pneumatic provided by the gas-charged titanium wire. When
continuous-loop system that utilizes a gas filled exposed to a localized high temperature, such as a
tube with a titanium wire running through its cen- fire or turbine engine compressor bleed air leak, the
ter as a sensing element. The tube itself is made of titanium wire releases hydrogen gas. This increases
stainless steel and is filled with helium gas. The the sensor's total gas pressure, which closes the
titanium wire, on the other hand, acts as a diaphragm switch and trips the fire alarm. A typical
gas-absorption material that contains a quantity of Systron-Donner system sensor activates a fire alarm
hydrogen. For protection, the wire when exposed to a 2,000 flame for five seconds.
is either
76-70 Fire ProtectonSystems

Figure 16-12. The Systron-Donner fire detection and overheat system consists of a helium-filled sensor tube surrounding a hydro-
gen-charged core. With this system, excessive temperatures increase the gas pressure which forces a diaphragm switch closed.
Once closed, power flows to the warning light and bell.

After a fire is extinguished, the sensor core material

reabsorbs the hydrogen gas and the responder auto-
matically resets the system. [Figure 16-12]

To check system integrity, the responder unit of a

Systron-Donner system contains an integrity switch
that is held closed by the normal gas pressure
exerted by the helium. When the integrity switch is
closed, depressing the test switch results in a fire
warning. However, if the sensing element should
become cut or severely chafed, the helium gas will
escape and the integrity switch remains open. In
this situation, depressing the test switch provides a
"no test" indication.

Systron-Donner sensor elements are quite durable

and can be flattened, twisted, kinked, and dented
without losing their overheat and fire detection abil-
ities. A typical sensing system consists of two sepa-
rate sensing loops for redundancy. Both loops are
required to sense a fire or overheat before an alarm
will sound. However, if one loop fails, the system
logic will isolate the defective loop and reconfigure
to a single loop operation using the good loop.
[Figure 16-13]

Another type of fire detection system that is used on
an aircraft is a flame detector system. Most flame
detectors consist of a photoelectric sensor that mea-
sures the amount of visible light or infrared radia-
tion in an enclosed area. The sensor is placed so it Figure 16-13. A typical installation of a Systron-Donner sys-
can see the surrounding area, and anytime there is tem consists of two independent loops attached to a sup-
port tube. The support tube establishes the routing of the
an increase in the amount of light that strikes the
detector element and provides attach points to the airplane.
Fire Protection Systems 16-11

cell, an electrical current is produced. Once enough

current is produced and channeled through an
amplifier, a fire warning light and bell are activated.


The smoke-detection system of the aircraft moni-
tors certain areas of the aircraft for the presence of
smoke, which can be an indication of an impending
fire condition. These may include, but are not lim-
ited to, cargo and baggage compartments, and the
lavatories of transport category aircraft. A
smoke-detection system is used where the type of
fire anticipated is expected to generate a substantial
amount of smoke before temperature changes are
sufficient to actuate an overheat-detection system.

The presence of carbon monoxide gas (CO) or Figure 16-14. Smoke particles, drawn into the photoelectric
nitrous oxides are dangerous to flight crews and smoke detector, refract light into a photocell, setting off an
passengers, and may indicate a fire condition. alarm.
Detection of the presence of either or both of these
gases could be the earliest warning of a dangerous the photoelectric cell, the smoke detector ampli-
situation. fiers, and associated circuits are all operable.
[Figure 16-15]
To be reliable, smoke detectors must be maintained
so that smoke in a compartment will be indicated as
soon as it begins to accumulate. In order for the
detector to operate properly, smoke detector lou-
vers, vents, and ducts must not be obstructed.
Smoke detection instruments are classified by
method of detection, and, in some cases, an aircraft
will have different types of detectors installed in
various locations.


This type of detector consists of a photoelectric cell,
a beacon lamp, and a light trap, all mounted on a
labyrinth. Air samples are drawn through the detec-
tor unit, usually by a small circulating fan. When
smoke particles are present, they refract light into
the photoelectric cell. An accumulation of 10%
smoke in the air causes the photoelectric cell to con-
duct current. When activated by smoke, the detector
supplies a signal to a smoke detector amplifier,
which activates a warning light and aural warning
in the cockpit. [Figure 16-14]

A test switch permits checking the operation of the

smoke detector. Closing the switch connects 28 VDC
electricity to the test relay. When the test relay ener-
gizes, voltage is applied through the beacon lamp
and test lamp in series to ground. A fire indication Figure 16-15. The test circuit on a light refraction smoke
will be observed only if the beacon and test lamp, detector simultaneously checks the beacon light, the pho-
tocell and the associated circuits.
16-12 Fire ProtectonSystems

With some light-refraction smoke detectors, the cal current-carrying capability of the detector. These
detector can be functionally tested with a flashlight elements are connected into a type of bridge circuit
equipped with a red-colored lens. Directing the so that when both elements are conducting evenly
light beam into the detector simulates the light con- the bridge will be balanced, and no warning signal
dition that would be produced with smoke. will be present. If the element in the area being
However, when conducting a test in this manner, monitored is subjected to CO gas or nitrous oxides,
ambient light must be shielded from entering the an unbalanced condition will be created across the
detector for the test to be effective. bridge and the warning circuit will illuminate the
cockpit warning lamp.
Ionization-type smoke detectors use a small amount CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTORS
of radioactive material to ionize some of the oxygen CO detectors are used to sense the presence of
and nitrogen molecules in the air sample drawn into deadly carbon monoxide gas, and are primarily
the detector cell. These ions permit a small electri- found in aircraft cabins or cockpits. CO is a color-
cal current to flow through the detector chamber less, odorless, tasteless, non-irritating gas that is a
test circuit. byproduct of incomplete combustion, and is found
in varying degrees in smoke and fumes from burn-
If smoke is present in the air sample being drawn ing substances. Exposure to even small amounts of
through the detector, small particles of the smoke the gas is dangerous. A concentration of 0.02% (2
will attach themselves to the oxygen and nitrogen parts in 10,000) may produce headache, mental
ions, reducing the electrical current flow in the test dullness, and some degree of physical impairment
circuit. If the current flow falls below a preset value, within a few hours. Higher doses or prolonged
the alarm circuit will activate visual and aural cock- exposure may cause death.
pit alarms. [Figure 16-16]
Probably the simplest and least expensive CO indi-
cator is a button, "worn as a badge or installed on the
instrument panel or cockpit wall. The button con-
tains a tablet that changes from a normal tan color to
progressively darker shades of gray-to-black when
exposed to CO gas. The color transition time is rela-
tive to the concentration of CO. At a concentration
of 50 ppm (0.005%), the first discoloration will be
apparent within 15 to 30 minutes, while a concen-
tration of 100 ppm (0.01%) will change the color of
the tablet in 2 to 5 minutes, and to dark gray or black
in 15 to 20 minutes. The buttons are effective, but
must be replaced at the manufacturer's recom-
mended intervals to keep them at the highest level
of performance.

Other types of CO detectors are installed to main-

tain a constant sampling of the cabin and cockpit air
Figure 16-16. The ionization-type detector conducts elec- when the aircraft is in operation. Such detectors are
tricity until smoke particles in the detection system cause a especially useful in reciprocating-engine aircraft
decrease in the amount of current flow.
that use either internal combustion heaters or
shrouded exhaust manifold systems for cabin heat.
Such CO-detection systems electronically sample
Solid-state smoke or toxic gas warning systems the cabin air, and sound an aural warning if CO is
operate by comparing signals from two detecting present in hazardous amounts. CO can be dis-
elements, one located in the area being monitored, charged into the cabin if the heater leaks from the
the other exposed to outside air. combustion side of the system into the ventilating
air stream.
These detecting elements consist of a heating coil Occasionally a manufacturer may require that an
encased in a coating of semiconductor material.
area of an aircraft be checked for the presence of CO
Carbon monoxide or nitrous oxides, if present, will
after a repair. To perform this testing, there are sev-
be absorbed into this coating and change the electri-
Fire Protection Systems 16-13

eral types of portable CO detectors, commonly time period established for the system. On some air-
called sniffers, that are available for use. One type craft, an audible alarm will also sound.
has a replaceable indicator tube that contains a yel-
low silica gel. During operation, a sample of air is For some spot-type and thermocouple detection
drawn through the detector tube. When the air sam- systems, as well as continuous-loop systems, a
ple contains carbon monoxide, the yellow silica gel Jetcal Analyzer unit may be used to physically test
turns to a shade of green. The intensity of the green a sensing element. A Jetcal Analyzer consists of a
color is proportional to the concentration of carbon heating element that is used to apply a known heat
monoxide in the air sample at the time and location value to a fire-detector element. The heat value dis-
of the tests. plays on the potentiometer of the Jetcal control
panel. When the alarm temperature is reached, the
FIRE-DETECTION SYSTEM cockpit warning light will illuminate. If the light
illuminates before the prescribed temperature set-
INSPECTION AND TESTING ting, the entire detector circuit should be inspected
Although the airframe structure and engine cowl for dented sensing elements, kinked wires and sens-
provide some protection for the sensing elements of ing tubes, or other damage that could affect the elec-
fire-detection systems, damage can still result from trical resistance of the circuit. [Figure 16-17]
vibration and handling during removal and installa-
tion. This, combined with the relatively small size
of sensing elements, dictates the need for a regular
inspection program. The following procedures are
provided as examples of some general inspection
practices that should be periodically accomplished
on a typical fire-detection system. However, these
procedures should not be used in lieu of the manu-
facturer's approved maintenance directives or
applicable instructions.


Spot-type and thermocouple detection systems are
relatively simple to inspect and maintain. The indi-
vidual sensing units should be inspected for secu-
rity of attachment, dented or distorted housings,
and electrical wire connections. However, when it
is necessary to splice electrical wire between sens-
ing elements, care should be exercised to only use
the materials and splicing techniques that are
authorized by the detection-system manufacturer. In
some installations, wire splices may cause a change
in the electrical resistance of the sensing circuit,
causing the system to malfunction.

Thermocouple detector mounting brackets should

be repaired or replaced when cracked, corroded, or
damaged. When replacing a thermocouple detector, Figure 16-17. A Jetcal Analyzer can be used to heat a fire
note which wire is connected to the plus (+) termi- detector element to test the fire warning system.
nal of the defective unit and connect the replace-
ment detector in the same way.
After the components of a fire-detection system MAINTENANCE PRACTICES
have been inspected, the system must be tested. To One of the first items that must be periodically
test a typical fire-detection system, power is turned checked on continuous-loop detection systems is
on in the cockpit and the fire detection test switch the routing and security of the detector elements.
is placed in the "TEST" position. Once this is done, Long, unsupported sections can vibrate excessively
the red warning light should illuminate within the and cause damage to the element. Common loca-
76-74 Fire ProtectonSystems

tions of cracked or broken elements are near inspec-

tion plates, cowl panels, engine components, or
cowl supports.

The distance between clamps on straight runs is

usually between 8 and 10 inches and is specified by
each manufacturer. To ensure adequate support
when a sensing element ends at a connector, a sup-
port clamp should be located about four to six
inches from the connector fitting. On elements that
are routed around certain components, a straight
run of one inch is typically maintained from all con-
nectors before a bend is started. The optimum bend
radius for most continuous-loop type sensing ele-
ments is three inches. [Figure 16-18]
Figure 16-19. Grommets should be installed on the sensing
element so both ends are centered on its clamp. The split
end of the grommet should face the outside of the nearest
bend. Clamps and grommets should fit the element snugly.

straighten it. By attempting to unnecessarily

straighten a sensing element, stresses may be set up
that could cause the tubing to fail. [Figure 16-20]

Figure 16-18. A loose clamp can result in interference

between a cowl brace and a sensing element. This interfer-
ence can cause the sensing element to wear, which could
create a short.

The clamps used to support most continuous-loop

sensing elements consists of a small hinged piece of
aluminum that is bolted or screwed to the aircraft
structure. To help absorb engine vibration, most
support clamps use a rubber grommet, wrapped
around the sensing element. Rubber grommets often Figure 16-20. Fire-sensing elements are located in exposed
become softened from exposure to oils and areas and, therefore, are subject to impact and abrasion.
hydraulic fluid, or hardened from excessive heat. When inspecting fire detection elements, be alert for sharp
Such grommets should be inspected on a regular bends, kinks, and crushed sections.
basis and replaced as necessary. [Figure 16-19]

A continuous-loop sensing element should be If shielded flexible leads are used on the ends of the
checked for dents, kinks, or crushed areas. Each sensing element, they should be inspected for fray-
manufacturer establishes the limits for acceptable ing. The braided sheath is made up of many fine
dents or kinks as well as the minimum acceptable metal strands, woven into a protective covering and
diameter for a sensing element. It is important to surrounding the inner insulated wire. Continuous
note that if a dent or kink exists that is within the bending or rough treatment can break the wire
manufacturer's limits, no attempt should be made to strands, especially those near the connectors, and
cause a short circuit.
Fire Protection Systems 16-15

Nuts at the end of a sensing element should be applying power to the system and moving wires to
inspected for tightness and proper safetying. Loose recreate the short.
nuts should be retorqued to the value specified by
the manufacturer. Some connection joints require False alarms can typically be located by disconnect-
the use of copper crush gaskets. If this type of gas- ing the engine sensing loop from the aircraft wiring.
ket is present on a joint, it should be replaced any- If the false alarm continues, a short exists between
time the connection is separated. Additional items the loop connections and the control unit. If the
to look for include pieces of safety wire or other false alarm ceases when the engine sensing loop is
metal particles that could short the sensing element. disconnected, the fault is in the disconnected sens-
[Figure 16-21] ing loop. The loop should be examined to verify that
no portion of the sensing element is touching the
hot engine. If there is no contact, the shorted section
can be located by isolating and disconnecting ele-
ments consecutively around the entire loop. Kinks
and sharp bends in the sensing element can cause
an internal wire to short intermittently to the outer
tubing. The fault can be located by checking the
sensing element with a megohm meter, or megger,
while tapping the element in the suspected area to
produce the short.

Moisture in the detection system seldom causes a

false fire alarm. However, if moisture does cause an
alarm, the warning will persist until the contamina-
tion is removed or boils away and the resistance of
the loop returns to its normal value.
Figure 16-21. When inspecting an electrical connector joint Another problem that could be encountered is the
such as this one, verify that the retaining nut is properly failure to obtain an alarm signal when the test
torqued and the safety wire is secure.
switch is actuated. Such failure could be caused by
a defective test switch or control unit, the lack of
TROUBLESHOOTING electrical power, an inoperative indicator light, or
Intermittent alarms or false alarms are probably the an opening in the sensing element or connecting
most common problems associated with a wiring. Kidde and Fenwal continuous-loop detec-
fire-detection system. Most intermittent alarms tors will not test if a sensing element is shorted or
are caused by an intermittent short circuit in the broken; however, they will provide a fire warning if
detector system wiring. Electrical shorts are often a real fire exists. When the test switch fails to pro-
caused by a loose wire that occasionally touches a vide an alarm, the continuity of a two-wire sensing
nearby terminal, a frayed wire brushing against a loop can be determined by opening the loop and
structure, or a sensing element that has rubbed measuring the resistance of each wire. In a
against a structural member long enough to wear single-wire continuous-loop system, the center
through the insulation. Intermittent faults can conductor should be grounded.
often be located by

Carbon dioxide is effective on both Class B and

Class C fires. A carbon dioxide hand held fire extin-
guisher can be used on an electrical fire, provided
the discharge horn is constructed of a nonmetallic
material. A metallic horn would tend to transfer an
electrical charge back to the fire extinguisher and to
Hand-held fire extinguishers and extinguishing sys- ground through the person holding the extin-
tems are installed in many aircraft to provide the guisher. In addition, since carbon dioxide leaves
flight crew and maintenance personnel with the almost no residue, it is well suited for engine intake
ability to fight fires while the aircraft is operating on and carburetor fires. Furthermore, carbon dioxide is
the ground or in flight. Portable extinguishers are nontoxic and does not promote corrosion. However,
commonly installed in the cockpit and passenger if used improperly, carbon dioxide will dissipate
cabin of many aircraft. More elaborate extinguish- oxygen uptake in the lungs, which can cause phys-
ing systems are installed in transport category and iological problems such as mental confusion and
corporate airplanes to extinguish fires in the engine, suffocation. Because of its variation in vapor pres-
auxiliary power unit, baggage, and electronic equip- sure with temperature, it is necessary to store CO 2
ment compartments. In addition, many transport in stronger containers than required for most other
category airplanes have fire-extinguishing systems extinguishing agents.
located in trash receptacles to protect against fires
that may occur in the lavatories of passenger-carry- HALOGENATED HYDROCARBONS
ing aircraft. A halogen element is one of the group that consists
of chlorine, fluorine, bromine, or iodine. Some
FIRE-EXTINGUISHING AGENTS hydrocarbons combine with halogens to produce
As previously mentioned, the three elements that very effective fire-extinguishing agents that work by
are needed to support combustion are a combustible excluding oxygen from the fire source and by chem-
fuel, oxygen, and heat. If any one of these elements ically interfering with the combustion process.
is removed, a fire will not burn. The portable and Halogenated hydrocarbon fire-extinguishing agents
fixed fire-extinguisher systems used in most aircraft are most effective on Class B and C fires but can be
are designed to displace the oxygen with an inert used on Class A and D fires as well. However, their
agent that does not support combustion. The most effectiveness on Class A and D fires is somewhat
common types of aircraft extinguishing agents that limited.
are used include carbon dioxide and halogenated
hydrocarbons. Halogenated hydrocarbons are numbered according
to their chemical formulas with five-digit Halon
CARBON DIOXIDE numbers, which identify the chemical makeup of
Carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) is a colorless, odorless gas the agent. The first digit represents the number of
that is about one and one-half times heavier than carbon atoms in the compound molecule; the sec-
air. To be used as an extinguishing agent, carbon ond digit, the number of fluorine atoms; the third
dioxide must be compressed and cooled until it digit, the number of chlorine atoms; the fourth digit,
becomes a liquid that can be stored in steel cylin- the number of bromine atoms; and the fifth digit,
ders. When released into the atmosphere, carbon the number of iodine atoms, if any. If there is no
dioxide expands and changes to a gas that cools to iodine present the fifth digit does not appear. For
a temperature of about 110. Because of the example, bromotrifluoromethane CF3 Br is referred
cooling effect, the water vapor in the air immedi- to as Halon 1301, or sometimes by the trade name
ately condenses to form "snow," which causes the Freon 13 .
CO 2 to appear to settle over the flames and
smother them. However, the fire is actually extin-
guished by the CO 2 displacing the oxygen in the
atmosphere, interrupting the chemical reaction
between the fuel and the oxygen. Once the
"snow" warms, it evaporates, leaving almost no
Fire Protection Systems 16-17

Halon 1301 is extremely effective for extinguishing after December 31, 1995. However, existing stocks of
fires in engine compartments of both piston and tur- CFCs are still allowed to be used after this date.
bine powered aircraft and is also considered to be Several alternatives to CFCs have recently been devel-
one of the best extinguishing agents for aircraft inte- oped and will most likely find applications as avia-
rior fires. In engine compartment installations, the tion fire-extinguishing agents. For example, DuPont
Halon 1301 container is pressurized by compressed FE-25 has proven to be an acceptable substitute for
nitrogen and is discharged through spray nozzles. Halon 1301 as an extinguishing agent and has no
Halon 1301 is also widely used as the agent for harmful affect on the earth's ozone layer. Other
portable fire extinguishers. [Figure 16-22] replacement extinguishing agents being researched
include water mist sprays, which have been proven to
be effective in combating many A, B, and C class fires.
As an aviation maintenance technician, it is impor-
tant to be aware of EPA and FAA regulations gov-
erning the use and disposal of CFCs. Improper han-
dling or disposal of halogenated hydrocarbons can
lead to civil and criminal penalties.
Portable, or hand-held, fire extinguishers are
installed in many aircraft inside the cockpit and
passenger compartments where they can be readily
accessed in the event of a fire. For installations on
commercial passenger-carrying aircraft, the number
Figure 16-22. Halogenated hydrocarbon fire-extinguishing
agents provide effective fire suppression in aircraft.
and location of extinguishers may be mandated by
FAR requirements, while the owners of smaller gen-
eral aviation airplanes are given the option to have
A number of halogenated hydrocarbon agents have
portable extinguishers installed.
been used in the past but are no longer in produc-
tion. The reason for this is that some early Halon PORTABLE FIRE EXTINGUISHER
extinguishing agents produced toxic or corrosive INSTALLATIONS
gases when exposed to fire. For example, carbon The FAA accepts the installation of most portable
tetrachloride (Halon 104) was the first generally fire extinguishers that are approved by certifying
accepted Halon extinguishing agent and was very organizations such as Underwriters' Laboratories,
popular for electrical hazards. However, when Inc., Factory Mutual Research Corp., or by the U.S.
exposed to heat, its vapors formed a deadly phos- Coast Guard under title 46 of the CFR for use in air-
gene gas, which is a form of nerve gas. craft. In most cases, these extinguishers are
mounted in brackets supplied by the extinguisher
Another once-popular agent was methyl bromide manufacturer and can tolerate the inertia forces that
(Halon 1001). However, methyl bromide is toxic to per- may be encountered during flight or due to an acci-
sonnel and corrosive to aluminum alloys, magnesium, dent. When evaluating the installation of a new or
and zinc. Of all the halogenated hydrocarbon extin- previously installed portable extinguisher, consid-
guishing agents, Halon 1301 is the safest to use from eration should be given to the following items:
the standpoint of toxicity and corrosion hazards. In
small dosage amounts, the gas has a low toxicity, but 1. Portable extinguishers should be mounted as
has similar effects of depriving oxygen from the lungs. near as possible to the hazardous areas they are
intended to protect. If no obvious hazard areas
Because of changing regulations and developing envi- exist, the extinguisher should be mounted near
ronmental impact data, you should keep abreast of the passenger entrance door or in a flight-atten
current developments pertaining to the use of halo- dant station, if one is provided.
genated hydrocarbons as fire-extinguishing agents. 2. When two or more extinguishers are installed,
For example, several studies suggest that they should be located with one at each end of
chlo-roflourocarbons (CFCs), such as Halon, damage the passenger compartment and spaced
the ozone layer in the stratosphere, allowing higher uniformly throughout the remainder of the
levels of ultraviolet radiation to reach the earth. To cabin.
reduce damage to the ozone layer, the
Environmental Protection Agency banned the 3. The extinguisher should be positioned in a loca
production of CFCs tion that makes it readily visible and accessible.
16-18 Fire ProtectonSystems

When this is not possible, a placard may be for hydrostatic testing, if required. Any servicing or
installed with letters at least 3/8-inch high indi- maintenance performed on the extinguisher must be
cating the location of the extinguisher. recorded in the aircraft's permanent maintenance
records and is often also indicated directly on the
4. The extinguisher manufacturer's mounting extinguisher container. [Figure 16-23]
bracket should be used only after determining
that it is capable of sustaining the inertia force
requirements designated in FAR Parts 23.561,
25.561, 27.561, or 29.561 with regard to the type
of aircraft. Meeting these requirements helps to
ensure that the extinguisher will not become
dislodged while in flight or during a hard
landing or accident, which could cause severe
injuries to the occupants if struck by the extin-
guisher. When evaluating the mounting bracket
installation, verify that it does not obstruct or
damage the aircraft structure. For example,
make sure the mounting hardware does not pen
etrate into electric cables, control cables or fluid
carrying hoses. Also, check movable items such
as flight controls and seat travels to verify that
the extinguisher does not hinder full movement.
5. Verify that all maintenance documentation
detailing the installation is complete. Required Figure 16-23. When inspecting or servicing a portable fire
record entries include amended empty weight extinguisher, always review the information provided on
the identification label. Also, verify that the extinguishing
and empty weight C.G. data, as well as agent is appropriate for the type of fire that is likely to occur
theequipment list and permanent maintenance in the fire zone where the extinguisher is installed.
records. If the extinguisher is installed in an air-
craft that does not have type certificate approval
for the installation, also verify that there is an
appropriate FAA Form 337, detailing the Additional items to check include releasing the
majornalteration. extinguisher from its mounting bracket to deter-
mine its ease of removal and checking that the acti-
PORTABLE EXTINGUISHER vation-trigger safety pin is properly installed. If
MAINTENANCE there is any doubt as to the integrity of the extin-
Most portable fire extinguishers are vendor sup- guisher's condition, it should be replaced or sent to
plied components and may not be covered in the a certified repair station that is authorized to per-
aircraft manufacturer's maintenance instructions. In form full servicing and maintenance on portable
these situations, the best resource for servicing and fire extinguishers.
maintenance information may be directly from the
extinguisher manufacturer. However, for extin- FIXED FIRE-EXTINGUISHING
guishers installed in aircraft that are used in com- SYSTEMS
mercial operations, the maintenance requirements In an aircraft, it is important that the type of
for portable extinguishers are often detailed in the fire-extinguishing system be appropriate for the
carrier's individual operating specifications. In class of fire that is likely to occur. There are two
some situations, the extinguisher manufacturer basic categories of fixed fire-extinguishing systems:
may provide basic servicing and maintenance infor- conventional systems, and high-rate-of-discharge
mation on the identification label. This information (HRD) systems. Both systems utilize one or more
should be reviewed during any inspection. Items containers of extinguishing agent and a distribution
that are typically checked include weighing the system that releases the extinguishing agent through
container to determine the quantity of extinguishing perforated tubing or discharge nozzles. As a general
agent, and checking a pressure gauge to determine rule, the type of system installed can be identified
the propellant charge. The information on the label by the type of extinguishing agent used. For
may also indicate any time or life limits on the ser- example, conventional systems usually employ
viceability of the extinguisher or the requirements carbon dioxide as the extinguishing agent while
HRD systems typically utilize halogenated
Fire Protection Systems 16-19

CONVENTIONAL SYSTEMS The CO 2 within a cylinder is distributed through

The fire-extinguishing installations used in most tubing from the CO 2 cylinder valve to the control
older aircraft are referred to as conventional sys- valve assembly in the cockpit. Once past the control
tems. Many of these systems are still used in some valve, the CO 2 proceeds to the fire zone via solid
aircraft, and are satisfactory for their intended use. tubing installed in the fuselage or wing. Inside the
A conventional fire-extinguisher system consists of fire zone, the tubing is perforated so the carbon
a cylinder that stores carbon dioxide under pressure dioxide can be discharged. [Figure 16-25]
and a remotely controlled valve assembly that dis-
tributes the extinguishing agent.

Carbon dioxide cylinders come in various sizes,

are made of stainless steel, and are typically
wrapped with steel wire to make them shatter-
proof. In addition, the normal gas storage pressure
ranges from 700 to 1,000 psi. Since the freezing
point of carbon dioxide is so low, a storage cylin-
der does not have to be protected against cold
weather. However, cylinders can discharge
prematurely in hot climates. To prevent this,
manufacturers sometimes charge a cylinder with
about 200 psi of dry nitrogen before they fill the
cylinder with carbon dioxide. When treated in this
manner, most CO 2 cylinders are protected against
premature discharge up to 160. The nitrogen also
provides additional pressure during normal release
of the agent.

Carbon dioxide cylinders are equipped internally

with one of three types of siphon tubes. The cylin-
ders used in aircraft typically utilize either a Figure 16-25. In a fire-extinguishing system that utilizes car-
straight-rigid, or a short-flexible siphon tube. The bon dioxide as an extinguishing agent, a sturdy cylinder
type of siphon tube installed in the cylinder is assembly is mounted to the airframe and connected to a
determined by the cylinder's mounting position. distribution line. In addition, an operating valve that is con-
trolled from the cockpit is installed to hold the carbon diox-
[Figure 16-24] ide in the cylinder until it's needed.

Figure 16-24. If a CO 2 cylinder is mounted vertically, a straight-siphon tube is used. However, if the cylinder is mounted horizon-
tally, a short-flexible siphon tube must be used. The type of siphon tube installed is typically indicated by a stamped code on the
body bushing. If an "SF" appears, a short-flexible siphon is installed. If an "S" appears, a straight siphon tube is installed. Other
manufacturers stamp or stencil the type of siphon used on the cylinder body.
76-20 Fire ProtectonSystems

To operate a conventional fire extinguisher system extinguishing agent out of the sphere. A strainer is
used to protect an engine compartment, a selector installed in the bonnet assembly to prevent the bro-
valve in the cockpit must be manually set for the ken disk fragments from getting into the distribution
engine that is on fire. Once this is done, a T-shaped lines. [Figure 16-26]
control handle located next to the selector valve is
pulled upward to actuate the release lever in the
CO 2 cylinder valve. Once released, the compressed
carbon dioxide flows in one rapid burst to the out-
lets in the distribution line of the affected engine
compartment. Contact with the air converts the liq-
uid CO 2 into a visible gas, which extinguishes the
flames by displacing oxygen.

Some CO 2 systems designed to protect engine fire

zones have multiple bottles, which gives the system
the capability of delivering extinguishing agent
twice to any of the engine compartments. Each bank
of CO 2 bottles is equipped with a red
thermo-dis-charge indicator disk and a yellow
system-discharge indicator disk. The red
thermo-discharge disc is set to rupture and
discharge the carbon dioxide overboard if the
cylinder pressure becomes excessively high (about
2,650 psi). On the other hand, the yellow
system-discharge disk ruptures whenever a bank of
bottles has been emptied by a normal discharge.
These disks are mounted so that they are visible on
the outside of the fuselage. This way, during a
preflight inspection, the flight crew can identify the
condition of the system. Figure 16-26. In a typical HRD container, the extinguishing
agent is released by an electrically actuated explosive that
HIGH-RATE DISCHARGE SYSTEMS ruptures a frangible disk. Once broken, the disk fragments
High-rate-of-discharge (HRD) is the term applied to collect in a strainer while the extinguishing agent is
directed to the engine nacelle.
the fire-extinguishing systems found in most mod-
ern turbine engine aircraft. A typical HRD system
consists of a container to hold the extinguishing As a safety feature, each extinguishing container is
agent, at least one bonnet assembly, and a series of equipped with a thermal fuse that melts and
high-pressure feed lines. releases the extinguishing agent if the bottle is sub-
jected to high temperatures. If a bottle is emptied in
The containers used in an HRD system are typically this way, the extinguishing agent will blow out a red
made of steel and spherically shaped. There are four indicator disk as it vents to the atmosphere. On the
sizes commonly in use today, ranging from 224 other hand, if the bottle is discharged normally, a
cubic inches to 945 cubic inches. The smaller con- yellow indicator disk blows out. Like a conven-
tainers generally have two openings, one for the tional system, the indicator disks are visible from
bonnet assembly or operating head, and the other the outside of the fuselage for easy reference.
for a fusible safety plug. The larger containers are [Figure 16-27]
usually equipped with two bonnet assemblies.
When installed on a multi-engine aircraft, the
Each container is partially filled with an extin- fire-extinguishing-agent containers are typically
guishing agent, such as Hal on 1301, and sealed with equipped with two firing bonnets. The two
a frangible disk. Once sealed, the container is pres- discharge ports allow one container to serve both
surized with dry nitrogen. A container pressure engines. [Figure 16-28]
gauge is provided so you can quickly reference the
container pressure. The bonnet assembly contains On large, multi-engine aircraft, two
an electrically ignited discharge cartridge, or squib, extinguishing-agent containers are generally
which fires a projectile into the frangible disk. Once installed, each with two firing bonnets. This allows
the disk breaks, the pressurized nitrogen forces the twin-engine aircraft
Fire Protection Systems 16-21

Figure 16-27. Two colored indicator disks are visible on the

exterior of an aircraft equipped with CO 2 or HRD extinguisher
system bottles. If the red disk is missing, it indicates that the
fire bottles have discharged because the bottle pressure
exceeded limits due to thermal heating. If the yellow disk is Figure 16-28. A typical extinguishing-agent container on a
missing, it indicates that the bottles were discharged multi-engine aircraft has two firing bonnets.
through activation of the system from the cockpit controls.

guisher bottles, removing and re-installing dis-

to have a dedicated container for each engine. In charge cartridges, testing the discharge tubing for
addition, the two discharge ports on each bottle pro- leaks, and testing electrical wiring for continuity.
vide a means of discharging both containers into The following discussion looks at some of these
one engine compartment. [Figure 16-29] common maintenance procedures to provide an
understanding of the operations involved. However,
INSPECTION AND SERVICING as an aviation maintenance technician, you must
Regular maintenance of fire-extinguishing systems understand that fire-extinguishing-system mainte-
includes inspecting and servicing the nance procedures vary substantially, depending on

Figure 16-29. A typical high-rate-of-discharge extinguishing system installed on a twin-engine, turbine-powered aircraft utilizes
two agent containers, each with two discharge ports. This permits two applications of extinguishing agent to any one engine.
76-22 Fire ProtectonSystems

the design and construction of the particular unit fire-extinguishing containers require re-weighing at
being serviced. Therefore, the detailed procedures frequent intervals. In addition to the weight check,
outlined by the airframe or system manufacturer fire-extinguisher containers must be hydrostatically
should always he followed when performing main- tested at five-year intervals.
CONTAINER PRESSURE CHECK The discharge cartridges used with HRD containers
A pressure check of fire-extinguisher containers is are life-limited and the service life is calculated
made periodically to determine that the pressure is from the manufacturer's date stamped on the car-
between the minimum and maximum limits pre- tridge. The manufacturer's service life is usually
scribed by the manufacturer. Aircraft service manu- expressed in terms of hours and is valid as long as
als contain pressure/temperature curves or charts the cartridge has not exceeded a predetermined
that provide the permissible gauge readings cor- temperature limit. Many cartridges are available
rected for temperature. If the pressure does not fall with a service life of up to 5,000 hours. To deter-
within the appropriate limits, the container must be mine a cartridge's service life, it is necessary to
removed and replaced with a properly charged con- remove the electrical leads and discharge hose from
tainer. [Figure 16-30] the bonnet assembly. Once this is done, the bonnet
assembly can be removed from the extinguisher
Once it has been determined that a bottle is properly container so the date stamped on the cartridge can
charged, check to make certain that the glass on the be seen.
pressure gauge is not broken. In addition, verify that
the bottle is securely mounted to the airframe. Most new extinguisher containers are supplied with
their cartridge and bonnet assembly disassembled.
The only way to determine if the appropriate Therefore, care must be taken in assembling or
amount of extinguishing agent is in a given con- replacing cartridges and bonnet assemblies. Before
tainer is to weigh the container. Therefore, most installation on an aircraft, the cartridge must be

Figure 16-30. This pressure/temperature chart allows you to determine if a specific fire-extinguishing bottle is properly charged.
As an example, assume the ambient temperature is 70 and the fire-extinguishing container needs to be checked to see if it is
properly charged. To do this, find 70 degrees at the bottom of the chart and follow the line up vertically until it intersects the min-
imum gauge-reading curve. From here, move left horizontally to find a minimum pressure of about 540 psig. Next, go back to the
70 line and follow it up vertically until it intersects the maximum gauge-reading curve. From this point, follow the horizontal line
to the left to determine a maximum pressure of approximately 690 psig. The container is properly charged as long as the pressure
gauge on the container indicates between 540 psig. and 690 psig.
Fire Protection Systems 16-23

Figure 16-31. When assembling a discharge cartridge into a bonnet assembly, it is best to use an exploded view drawing like the
one above. Once assembled, the entire bonnet assembly is attached to the container by means of a swivel nut that tightens
against a packing ring gasket.

properly assembled into the bonnet and the entire Once the extinguishing agent leaves a bottle, it pro-
assembly connected to the container. [Figure 16-31] ceeds to a two-way shuttle valve that channels the
extinguishing agent into the distribution system.
If a discharge cartridge is removed from a bonnet Once in the distribution system, the extinguishing
assembly, it should not be used in another bonnet agent passes through the appropriate engine selec-
assembly. In addition, since discharge cartridges are tor valve to a series of discharge nozzles within the
fired electrically, they should be properly grounded engine compartment. If the fire is not extinguished
or shorted to prevent accidental firing. Wrapping a after discharging one bottle, the second bottle can be
piece of safety wire between the two electrical ter- discharged and the extinguishing agent routed to
minals of the discharge cartridge is sometimes done the same engine. [Figure 16-32 on page 16-24]
to keep both terminals electrically neutral.
The controls for the 727 fire-protection system
727 FIRE-PROTECTION SYSTEM consist of three engine fire-warning lights, one
The following discussion is intended to provide an wheel-well fire-warning light, a bottle transfer
overview of a typical fire-extinguishing system switch, a fire-bell cutout switch, a
installed on a transport-category aircraft. The fire-detection-system test switch, and a
fire-protection system used on a Boeing 727 is detector-inoperative test switch. The fire warning
typical of those found on several aircraft in service lights are part of the fire-detection system and
today. illuminate whenever one of the fire detectors
detects a fire. On the other hand, the bottle transfer
In the Boeing 727 powerplant fire-extinguishing switch allows the pilot to select which bottle of
system, all three powerplant areas are protected by extinguishing agent is discharged. The fire-bell
two high-rate-of-discharge bottles. Each of the disable switch silences the fire bell after it has
two-agent bottles has a gauge to indicate its pressure. been activated by a fire indication. The
An electrical pressure switch is mounted on each fire-detection-system test switch checks the conti-
bottle to activate a bottle discharge light on the nuity of the detectors and operation of the warn-
instrument panel when the pressure on the agent ing system. The detector-inoperative test switch
bottle is below limits. tests the circuits that activate the "Detector Inop"
76-24 Fire ProtectonSystems

Figure 16-32. The Boeing 727 aircraft utilizes two fire bottles and three selector valves to provide fire suppression to all three
engines. With this arrangement, the cockpit crew can discharge both bottles to a single

lights and, if the systems are fu

momentarily illuminate the lights and, if the When a fire is sensed, a red warning light inside the
lights. [Figure 16-33] systems are engine-fire switch illuminates and the fire bell
functioning properly, rings. When the warning light comes on, the pilot
mnrrmntaril v illuminate the Detector Inop
"netfintnr Tnnn"

Figure 16-33. A typical Boeing 727 fire control panel provides an indication of wheel-well or engine-compartment fires, controls
fire bottle discharge, and permits testing of the fire detector system.
Fire Protection Systems 76-25

pulls the appropriate engine-fire handle. This arms and shatter the frangible disk. With the frangible
the fire-extinguisher-bottle discharge switch, dis- disk broken, the extinguishing agent is released into
connects the generator field relay, stops the flow of the appropriate engine compartment. Once the
fuel and hydraulic fluid to the engine, and shuts off extinguishing agent is discharged, the fire warning
the engine bleed air. It also deactivates the light should go out within thirty seconds. If the
engine-driven hydraulic pump low-pressure lights warning light does not go out, the pilot can move
and uncovers the bottle discharge switch. If the the bottle transfer switch to its opposite position to
pilot determines that a fire actually exists in the select the second bottle of extinguishing agent, and
engine compartment, the extinguishing agent is again push the bottle discharge switch. Once the
released by depressing and holding the bottle fire-extinguisher bottle has been discharged, or
discharge switch. Once the discharge switch is when its pressure is low, the appropriate bottle dis-
depressed, electrical current causes the discharge charge light illuminates.
cartridge to explode