How Aircraft Cooling Systems Work

In order to facilitate the proper functioning of an aircraft engine, and combat the issue of overheating, an aircraft cooling system is required. Inside the typical commercial jet engine, the fuel burns in the combustion chamber at up to 2,000 degrees Celsius. The temperature at which the metal inside an engine begins to melt is 1,300 degrees Celsius. So, advanced cooling techniques are vital to preventing engine damage. There are also many other types of cooling used for various components within an aircraft, as well as to regulate cabin temperature.

An engine cooling system is designed to regulate the engine temperature. This includes cylinder barrel heads, which house the combustion chamber and valves. Liquid cooling is often used in commercial aircraft and has the advantage of regulating the cylinder temperatures much more efficiently than other types of cooling. The coolant can be thermostatically controlled and maintained throughout the course of a flight. Liquid cooling extends the engine life, uses lower fuel consumption, and is very reliable. Separate parts of the engine, such as the bearings and pistons, are typically cooled by the recirculation of its own oil. A significant portion of the heat produced by engines is expelled through the exhaust pipes.

Air flow cooling is a concept in which all cylinders are equally exposed to the airflow with an even temperature distribution. This process is used in aircraft with four, six, or eight-cylinder aero engines. Planes that utilize air flow cooling don’t suffer from the drag increase as much as their larger counterparts endure. To guide the air from the intakes to the engine ducts, baffles and plates are used to maintain a stable air pressure above the engine and underneath the top cowling. Once the cool air has entered the front of the plane and cooled the cylinders, the warm air needs to be dispelled. This is achieved through openings in the lower cowling, often times controlled by cowl flaps. Cowl flaps are manually operated by the pilot during high power operations as well as low speed scenarios (usually during takeoff and landing).

Liquid cooling on the forefront of cooling techniques. This type of cooling is often used in commercial aircrafts and has the advantage of regulating the cylinder temperatures much more efficiently. The coolant can be thermostatically controlled and maintained throughout the course of a flight. Liquid cooling extends the engine life, uses lower fuel consumption, and is very reliable.

The engine isn’t the only part of the plane that requires cooling; the interior cabin requires the same process. It isn’t as easy as letting in the air from the outside as the air is much cooler at higher altitudes. Regulating the interior cabin temperature is achieved by a complex air compression system that directs air through the engines of the plane.

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January 21, 2019