Jetaire Uses Foam Technology to Improve Fuel Tank Safety
With a little more than a year left to meet an FAA deadline to address fuel tank flammability risks, Jetaire Group, an Atlanta-based aircraft modifications specialist, has developed a cost-effective system backed by heavyweights Airbus and Boeing. The FAA has signed off on all Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) data, and all that remains is installing a kit on each aircraft type to demonstrate conformity. The company expects to have the A320 STC in hand later this year and will add the 737NG as soon as the company can arrange for an aircraft to serve as the conformity testbed.
Unlike inerting kits that use inert gas to replace air in a fuel tank, Jetaire’s design calls for lining a tank with a proprietary foam to suppress fuel ignition. With the full-fleet modification deadline of Dec. 26, 2017 creeping up, the CEO of Jetaire, Mike Williams, believes there will be a market for alternative approaches, including a foam-based kit.
“It has no moving parts, no failure modes and requires no maintenance for 60 months,” said Williams. While the system’s simplicity is part of the reason for Williams’ confidence, another is basic supply and demand. One supplier says the lead time for an OEM-backed 737NG kit is close to 12 months, meaning operators that have not placed orders by the end of this year could be left with non-compliant aircraft.
Jetaire’s 737NG STC is a modification of an existing STC for 737 Classics. It would cover all 737NGs except for the 737-900, which has a different center tank design than the 600/700/800 series. The A320 STC would be new, but it is based on the same design as the approved 737 Classic STC, so certification issues are not expected.
Jetaire’s kit is installed on about twenty 737 Classics—mostly flown by charter operators with single-aircraft or small fleets. The foam-based kit’s operational impact is that it uses space needed by the equivalent of about 4 min. of fuel on the 737 Classic—roughly 90 gallons. Fuel burn is not affected. Installation takes 2-3 days, compared to more than a week for a gas-inerting system.
The weight penalty is negligible compared to more than 400 lbs. for the OEM system, Jetaire data shows. As the full-fleet modification deadline approaches, third-party kit suppliers could see more interest in their products. The air separation module (ASM), the heart of an inerting system, has been failing on some 737NGs after about half of its 20,000-25,000-hour service life expectancy.
Replacing an out-of-warranty ASM can cost $75,000. Boeing is working on an improved kit with its suppliers, including ASM manufacturer Parker Hannifin, but it is not expected to be available until next year. Meanwhile, the FAA has said that while it will consider relaxing the deadline on an operator-by-operator basis, a general extension will not be granted. This gives suppliers such as Jetaire the opportunity to win business from operators that are either looking for alternatives or did not place orders early enough.
Once STCs are in hand, Williams says lead times for Jetaire’s kits will be 60-90 days, though he expects this to increase as orders arrive. Jetaire is not stopping at equipping the venerable narrow body families. It was slated to install a kit on a Boeing 767-200 VIP aircraft during an early-fall heavy check. Once the FAA signs off on the installation, an STC would be in hand. The company also is working on kits for several other models, including Boeing 757-200s and the few remaining U.S. registered 737-200s operating.
Jetaire Group, established in 1984, is a full-service avionics and aircraft engineering firm providing high-quality services to clients in the aviation and aerospace industries. Headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, Jetaire specializes in fuel tank safety, ignition mitigation, and FAR and FTFR certification that comply with FAA, EASA, ANAC & AFAC. With offices and dedicated employees worldwide, Jetaire has provided over 150 value-added technical and engineering solutions to customers in 51 countries.
For inquiries, contact Mike Williams at 404.346.7175 x223 or email@example.com.