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AIRCRAFT FUEL TANK SAFETY AND COMPLIANCE

Aviation is the Branch of Engineering that is Least Forgiving of Mistakes

Freeman Dyson

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Fact vs. Fiction – The Truth About Alternatives to Nitrogen Generating Systems & FTFR Compliance

Commercial and Private aviation safety is paramount, and with mandatory compliance to (FTFR) the Fuel Tank Flammability Reduction rule upcoming, understanding the options available to airline operators, corporations, and lessors is a top priority. While there are multiple pathways to meeting compliance with the FTFR rule and FAR 25.981, it’s important to understand what is accurately portrayed by suppliers and what is not. In this article, we look to dispel some of the fiction and present factual evidence to aid in the decision on how to bring Boeing and Airbus aircraft into compliance. So, let’s get started, shall we?


Understanding Fuel Tank Flammability Reduction Means

Fuel tank explosions pose a significant risk, especially when an ignition source, such as a spark, ignites the fuel vapors in the ullage space. To mitigate this risk, several solutions have emerged in the market, including highly complex, mechanical systems which inert nitrogen gas into the fuel tank to decrease the likelihood of an ignition event and reticulated polyurethane foam inserts that reduce the amount of space for potentially flammable vapor to form. In this comparative analysis, we will delve into the features, compliance, and benefits of these solutions, highlighting their effectiveness in achieving fuel tank flammability reduction rule compliance and dispelling some of the less than honest marketing approaches being positioned to the broader market.

What Aircraft Types Are Affected by the Fuel Tank Flammability Reduction Rule & FAR 25.981?

The FAA has issued multiple airworthiness directives for different aircraft types, including:


Airbus A320 Series (AD 2019-24-01) with compliance by February 2026

Airbus A330-200 Series (AD 2019-24-01) with compliance by February 2026

Boeing B737 NG Series (AD 2020-18-13) with compliance by October 2026

Boeing B757 Series (AD 2016-07-07) with compliance already mandated as of May 2022

Boeing B767 Series (AD 2020-18-16) with compliance by November 2026

Boeing B777 Series (AD 2020-18-12) with compliance by October 2026


These ADs specify the compliance timeline, effective dates, and the necessary modifications to achieve fuel tank flammability reduction.


The Various Methods for Ensuring Compliance with the Fuel Tank Flammability Reduction Rule

OEM Nitrogen Generating or Fuel Tank Inerting Systems

According to a Simple Flying article on Boeing’s (NGS) nitrogen generating system from January 2023, an onboard system consisting of an (ASM) air separation module and other components, effectively flows nitrogen enriched air into the center wing tank while venting oxygen enriched air. The (NEA) nitrogen enriched air reduces the oxygen content of the air within the center wing tank to 12% rendering the air non-combustible.


Similarly, and according to industry blog, Airbus.work, the (FTIS) Fuel Thank Inerting System from Airbus mitigates the occurrence of an explosion within the center wing tank much like that of Boeing’s solution. Two primary components, the (IGGS) Inert Gas Generation System and the (CSAS) Conditioned Service Air System work in tandem to both deliver cooled NEA to the center wing tank while venting the OEA.


Operational Diagram of Airbus FTIS via Airbus.work


Airbus FTI fuel tank inerting system diagram

(RPF) Reticulated Polyurethane Foam

An alternative to the mechanical nitrogen generating systems provided by the OEMs is the use of reticulated polyurethane foam. Jetaire Group, a renowned provider of fuel tank flammability reduction solutions, has developed an innovative solution to satisfy the requirements of FTFR and FAR 25.981. Their patented technology, known as INVICTA™, utilizes a proprietary Reticulated Polyurethane Foam (RPF) that effectively reduces the incidence of fuel tank explosions. This lightweight, self-extinguishing foam acts as a three-dimensional skeletal matrix, suppressing fuel ignition caused by heated fuel vapor, tank rupture, lightning strikes, static discharge, or other external factors.


While other RPF solutions are currently available and imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, it is important to understand that Jetaire holds the only utility patent for the use of reticulated polyurethane foam as an ignition mitigation means in commercial aircraft. INVICTA™ has been successfully adopted by commercial and private aircraft operators of Boeing and Airbus aircraft in over a dozen countries worldwide, making it a trusted and proven solution in the industry.


Facts vs. Fiction Regarding FTFR Compliance

Fact: Fuel Tank Flammability Reduction compliance is being mandated in several countries across the globe. With some manufacturers having extended product leads, now is the time to begin planning for a pathway to compliance.


Fiction: While some companies will attempt to mislead airline operators and lessors with statements such as the one below, there are multiple options available for bringing Boeing and Airbus aircraft into FTFR compliance outside of nitrogen generating systems.


AerSale AerSafe FAQ document snip misrepresenting information regarding alternative solutions for fuel tank flammability reduction compliance
Misrepresentation of AerSafe as only approved solution outside OEM NGS

Fact: Jetaire holds the only utility patents for the use of its proprietary reticulated polyurethane foam solution, INVICTA ™. Additional information on the patent can be found by viewing our blog post - Elevate Aviation Safety with INVICTA ™: The Exclusive Patented Flammability Reduction Solution


Benefits of NGS & FTIS Alternatives

Achieving fuel tank flammability compliance is a complex process, but it is possible with the right information and an understanding of the options for achieving compliance. The available alternative solutions to costly OEM nitrogen inerting solutions offer significant advantages in terms of safety and efficiency. Non-mechanical RPF products from Jetaire and others are straightforward and can be installed within a matter of days. The NGS alternatives provide lower total cost of ownership compared to expensive OEM nitrogen inerting systems. However, it is important to recognize that Jetaire's INVICTA™ holds the only utility patent and is the industry's trusted solution, ensuring compliance with airworthiness directives and regulatory requirements.


Conclusion

Fuel tank flammability reduction is a critical aspect of ensuring the safety and compliance of aircraft. Regulatory bodies like the FAA have implemented airworthiness directives to address the risks associated with fuel tank explosions. Companies like Jetaire Group and others offer innovative solutions to achieve compliance with these regulations. Jetaire's INVICTA™, the industry's only patented and approved non-mechanical ignition mitigation means, provides an effective and efficient solution to fuel tank flammability reduction. While others offer an alternative, it is essential to recognize Jetaire's INVICTA™ as the leading solution in the industry. By partnering with trusted providers like Jetaire Group, aircraft operators can ensure the highest level of safety and compliance in fuel tank flammability reduction.

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