An Introduction to Fuel Breakaway Valves
Unless an aircraft features a fully electric engine, it will require regular refueling in order to conduct flight operations. Aircraft can be refueled in a few ways, generally using a mobile tanker or a stationary pumping station. As fuel is combustible, it is important that it is safely delivered to the fuel tank of the aircraft to ensure hazard prevention. This safety is upheld through the use of what is known as a fuel breakaway valve, that of which is commonly found on various aircraft types.
In their most simplistic form, breakaway valves are simply a type of hose fitting that prevents the escape of fuel from the fuel line when an extreme separation load occurs. They do this by “breaking away” from the fuel line of the aircraft during the separation load in order to maintain fuel within the aircraft. While this is a very beneficial element that ensures safety, it is useful to understand how the breakaway valve carries out its safety features.
A typical fuel breakaway valve will contain a number of internal components, one of which is a standard fuel. The fuse is crucial in helping the valve breakaway from the fuel line during an extreme separation load, working alongside the valve itself. With the valve, the fuel line is sealed during the load event to prevent the escape of any fuel already within the aircraft.
During standard operations, the fuel breakaway valve will remain open so that fuel can easily move from the refueling tanker or pumping station, through the valve, and into the aircraft itself for storage. When an event of extreme separation load occurs, the valve will close itself for safety. There are many examples of how this issue may come about, such as if the aircraft began to move away from the tanker or pumping station while everything was still connected to the refueling tanker or pumping station. To prevent any pumps or hoses from ripping as the aircraft moved away from the station or tanker, the fuel breakaway valve will break apart into two pieces. While other parts may separate from the aircraft at this point, the valve assembly remains connected as it shuts to ensure no spillage or leaks.
When perusing the market for fuel breakaway valves, it is important that one takes the time to find the right fit for their particular aircraft and needs. While some breakaway valves are designed to be reconnectible, others may be a single use item. Additionally, many valves will vary in their size, features, capabilities, and more. Generally, most breakaway valves are available in sizes ranging from ?” to 3.” For the material, aluminum alloy, stainless steel, and titanium are all regularly used. Regardless of the diversity of options, having a fuel breakaway valve is paramount for protecting the fuel nozzles and hoses used for refueling, as well as to ensure that a trail of fuel is not left behind an aircraft if it is pulled away during the refueling process.
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