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The Next Generation (NexGen) (sonic) burner is a new burner designed by the FAA William J. Hughes Technical Center for the required FAA fire certification tests on power plant components. The objective of this study is to understand the performance of this burner and provide the benchmark to adapt the burner settings for future FAA fire tests. Tests have been conducted to study the burner performance and its sensitivity to operating conditions and changes in configuration. Tests were conducted on the old burner configuration consisting of the stator and turbulator, and the updated configuration consisting of the flame retention head and the static plate. Burner calibration was found to be sensitive to changes in fuel flow rate, but not to air mass flow rate, though burnthrough results were sensitive to both parameters. Results were not affected by fuel and air temperatures as long as the air mass flow rate was held constant at the different air temperatures. Changes in burner inclination were observed to affect the burner performance. For the updated burner configuration, tests were conducted to study the effect of changes in the internal configuration. The NexGen burner performance was observed to be robust, and tolerances have been specified for some of the internal configuration components.
This report discusses ongoing developmental efforts related to the NexGen burner. It should be noted that the burner construction and settings discussed in this report are not representative of the most recent ones used on the NexGen burner. For detailed construction drawings and to view other documentation and presentations that discuss the most up-to-date burner configurations, please visit the FAA’s Fire Safety Branch’s website at www.fire.tc.faa.gov.
To improve the accuracy of aircraft fire detection, new smoke detectors have been produced to differentiate between what is a real fire and what is a false alarm. Nontoxic theatrical smoke machines are used to test these new false resistant smoke detectors in flight. This research is based on characterizing the smoke from the machines to understand what alerts different types of smoke detectors, and what would best be used for testing them.
Two smoke detectors were utilized in testing. One was a Whittaker Model 601 smoke detector which is an optical beam smoke detector; the second is a Kidde Aerospace & Defense Smoke Detector Type II which is a prototype of the new false alarm resistant detector. Two smoke machines were also used: one using fluid that is oil-based (the Concept Smoke Systems Aviator UL 440) and one using fluid that is water-based (the Rosco 1700). The particle size and percent obscuration of the smoke from these machines have been determined and used to understand the requirements of alarm for the detectors.
By using the Phase Doppler Particle Analyzer (PDPA) to measure the particle size of the smoke leaving each machine, it was found that the smoke from the Aviator UL had much smaller particles than that of the Rosco. Optical density meters were used to measure the percent obscuration per foot of the smoke entering the detectors. Along with the smaller particle sizes recorded, the Aviator UL also alarmed at a significantly lower percent obscuration per foot. It is hypothesized to be that because of this smaller particle size, the Aviator UL was able to alarm the “false alarm resistant” Kidde detector whereas the Rosco, with the larger particle sizes was unable to force the alarm into detection until the level of obscuration was significantly higher than the Aviator UL.
A test protocol is developed for assessing the fire hazard of a ceiling material in a combat ground vehicle. The hazards to the occupants include the thermal and toxic hazards from asphyxiant and irritant gases. An analysis is developed to determine the critical material fire properties that meet a safe level. The safe level is defined to consist of the prevention of flame spread over the ceiling and no incapacitation of the occupants for up to 5 minutes. Performance decrements due to eye and respiratory irritation from irritant gases were also considered. Experiments and analyses were conducted to develop the relationships for the critical fire properties in terms of physics and human tolerance to fire gases. A recommended level is based on that analysis and the incorporation of safety factors. The analysis consists of an engineering design that should clearly show the rationale for the protocol and a foundation for modifying it in the future based on new knowledge and information.
The Airport and Aircraft Safety Research and Development Group Fire Safety Team performed tests at the FAAWilliam J. Hughes Technical Center to examine the variation in flammability exposure of fuel tanks comprised of a composite material skin and a traditional aluminum skin. The variation in topcoat color of the aluminum material was analyzed, as was the variation in thickness of the composite material.
Tests examining the effects of topcoat color of the aluminum fuel tank were consistent. These tests showed that while the bare composite material transmits radiant heat into the fuel tank much more readily than the bare aluminum material, once aviation grade primer and a topcoat (regardless of color) are applied, the aluminum skin behaves in a similar manner to the composite. The application of both white and black topcoat colors to the aluminum panels resulted in the aluminum tank temperatures and total hydrocarbon concentration (THC) measurements being consistent with the composite tank test results, which is evidence that a difference in material properties is not what leads to differences in temperatures and THC measurements. Instead, it was thought that the reflective behavior of the bare aluminum material, causing much of the radiant heat to be reflected off the tank, resulted in lower fuel tank temperatures and, therefore, lower THC measurements. However, additional testing with the composite material, with a reflective aluminum epoxy applied to it, did not exhibit the anticipated impact to the internal tank temperatures and flammability measurements. As a result, the testing conducted was inconclusive as to the cause of the fuel tank behavior. Panel heat tests with the composite materials of varying thicknesses showed a correlation between panel thickness and temperature on the bottom surface of the panel. However, tests showed that when these panels are installed on a fuel tank, the difference in thickness provides little variance in resulting tank temperatures and THC measurements. These tests, however, did once again confirm the strong correlation between ullage temperature and THC within a fuel tank when heated from above.
The effectiveness of aircraft depressurization (reduced pressure) on the burning behavior of stacked cargo, batteries, fuel, and materials was measured in a 381-cubic-foot (10.8-cubic-meter) pressure vessel, modified to conduct fire tests at a specific reduced pressure or programmed to vary the pressure to simulate aircraft depressurization to control a cargo fire and subsequent emergency descent to sea level. It was determined that depressurization did not prevent flashover during cargo fires consisting of stacked cargo boxes filled with shredded paper, although the burning behavior of individual fuels and materials was reduced at lower pressures. The discharge of Halon 1301 prevented flashover during the cargo fires and also significantly reduced the air temperature. In addition, thermal runaway of lithium batteries overheated under controlled fire-exposure conditions was not prevented over a range of pressures from sea level to an elevation of 26,000 ft (7.9 km).