Because fire is such a serious threat for aircraft, the potential fire zones of modern aircraft are protected by fixed fire protection systems. A fire zone is an area of an aircraft designed to require fire detection and/or fire extinguishing equipment and a high degree of inherent fire resistance. “Fixed” means that there is a permanently installed system, in contrast to any portable fire extinguishing equipment. A complete fire protection system will have both fire detection and extinguishing components.
Typical zones on an aircraft that will have fixed fire protection systems include
To detect fires or overheat conditions, detectors are placed in various zones that need to be monitored. Fires are detected in the reciprocating engine and small turboprop aircraft using one or more of the following:
In addition, other types of detectors are used in monitoring other areas where materials burn slowly, such as cargo and baggage compartments. Other types of detectors include carbon monoxide detectors and chemical sampling equipment that can detect combustible mixtures that eventually lead to explosive gases accumulating.
Fires are classified by what materials are involved in combustion. Class A fires involve typical combustible materials like wood, cloth, paper, rubber, and plastics. Class B fires are flammable liquids, such as petroleum oils, greases, tars, solvents, alcohols, and flammable gases. Class C fires involve energized electrical equipment in which using an extinguishing media that is electrically non-conductive is essential.
Fire protection systems on modern aircraft do not rely on observation by crew members as the primary method for fire detection. An ideal fire detector system will include as many of the following features as possible:
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