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Flow meters are used throughout the aviation industry to monitor the flow of fluids including fuel, hydraulic fluids, lubricants, and more. In this blog, we will discuss the ways flow meters are used to manage these fluids.
The first and most critical role of flow meters is to monitor and manage fuel consumption. Flow meters help pilots control the rate at which fuel enters the system, as well as tracking the amount of fuel that has passed through the system. Aircraft engines require a precise mixture of fuel and air to operate. Failing to control the amount of fuel in this mixture can create problems leading to poor engine performance and ultimately failure. Monitoring the speed at which fuel enters the engine system will also ensure there is sufficient fuel to complete a journey safely.
Flow meters also have a role to play when refueling an aircraft. Similar to the way pumps as a commercial gas station use flow meters to measure the amount of gas entering the car’s tank, flow meters perform the same function when refilling aircraft fuel tanks. This allows the operator filling the aircraft to track the amount of fuel that has been dispensed, which is important because many aircraft fuel tanks are only filled with the amount of fuel needed for a journey, rather than being completely filled.
Another use for flow meters is in hydraulic systems. Hydraulics are used throughout the aviation industry for everything from landing gear and brakes to flight control systems. In order to operate properly, the correct quantity of hydraulic fluid must be used to ensure a sufficient amount of pressure is present within the system for the required action. Incorrect amounts of hydraulic fluid can cause critical functional difficulties, including landing gear or brake failure. Flow meters are able to measure hydraulic fluid within systems as it passes through. By doing this, they are able to ensure proper operations. Additionally, when hydraulic fluids must be flushed and replaced, flow meters can track both the amount of fluid coming out of the system and the amount being sent back in.
Finally, flow meters are used to monitor the lubricants in an aircraft. For example, when an aircraft requires an oil change, a flow meter can help ensure the right amount is being added. However, not all aircraft go through complete oil changes. Instead, many commercial airlines and private owners perform regular top-ups, adding clean oil to replace any that has been lost during normal operation. In this process, flow meters are used to track the amount of oil being added.
Not every aircraft uses the same type of flow meter to carry out these jobs. There are multiple types of flow meters that are commonly used, including open channel flow meters, mass flow meters, turbine flow meters, positive displacement flow meters, variable area flow meters, and velocity flow meters. No matter the type, every flow meter must be properly maintained and calibrated. Over time, flow meters can become less accurate due to regular use. This is perfectly normal, but means that regular re-calibrations must be carried out to ensure proper operation.
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