Aircraft Life Support Systems Part 2: Water and Waste System

INTRODUCTION

In the aircraft industry, several systems are designed to provide safety and comfort for the crew and passengers.

Regarding comfort, the water and waste system is designed to provide water for galleys and lavatories. Fresh water is stored and distributed while a different system deals with wastewater. That system includes a thoughtful engineering method to dispose of the different wastes that could occur during the flight.

OVERVIEW

Water must be supplied to different parts of the plane during flight. This water is kept in a tank in the compartment aft of the bulk cargo compartment. The whole system is made up of a passenger water system that stores, delivers, monitors and controls drinkable (potable) water for the galley units and lavatory sink basins.

In this blog, we are going to focus more specifically on the 737-classic model from Boeing.

Figure 1-Representation of different parts of the water and waste system
Figure 1-Representation of different parts of the water and waste system

The 3 main achievements of the water and waste system are the following:

  • Filling the water tank on land
  • Providing water during the flight
  • Storing toilet waste

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The water and waste system is made up of:

  • Potable water system aims to deliver fresh water to every needed part in the plane (including every component between the water tank and sinks)
  • Water tank pressurization system focuses on the pressurization of the water tank and air dealing with the tank (including air compressor, pressure regulator filter, pressure relief valve)
  • Wastewater system focuses on water related to lavatory and sinks / galleys wastewater (including drain masts)
  • Toilet system includes components related to flushing and toilet water (including waste tank)

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The water tank has a capacity of 34 gallons (about 0.15 m3). The water system in the plane needs to be pressurized for altitude just like the cabin, so it gets pressurized by an air inlet (linked to the pneumatic system). Therefore, the water quantity should not exceed 30 gallons (about 0.13 m3). Read More

Aircraft Life Support Systems Part 1: Oxygen System

INTRODUCTION

In the aircraft industry, several systems are designed to provide safety and comfort for crew and passengers while traveling. Oxygen gets rarified with altitude, so life support is a very important system

The cabin is pressurized in order to provide breathable air, but reaching a sea level pressure is not advisable since it would lead to a significant pressure differential between the aircraft exterior and the cabin interior. This difference could damage the aircraft structure.

Additionally, the cabin altitude is different from the flight altitude. In fact, the cabin altitude corresponds to the one reached according to the cabin pressure. Usually a commercial flight cruises at an altitude of 35,000 ft, but thanks to the pressurization system, the cabin altitude is around 6,000-8,000 ft.  Indeed, the oxygen system provides breathable oxygen to the crew and passengers if any problem were to occur during the flight.

AIRCRAFT EMERGENCY OXYGEN SYSTEM:

In a normal situation, a bleed air system is used to provide fresh air throughout the flight duration. The air is hot and must be cooled and pressurized to make it breathable.  In the event of an emergency, the plane is already equipped with oxygen systems which are linked to passengers and cabin crew through masks. In fact, there are two oxygen systems on board. One designed for the crew, and the second for the passengers.

If the cabin pressure drops making cabin altitude about 14,000 ft, the emergency system are be triggered. The emergency system provides oxygen to passengers for 15 to 20 minutes, and for the crew members for around 30 minutes. This is enough time for the aircraft to descend to a lower altitude and being the cabin altitude to a safe breathable level.

Here, the crew oxygen system schematic of the Boeing 737 class is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1-Crew oxygen system
Figure 1-Crew oxygen system

The main challenges of oxygen equipment are:

  • Fitting the dimensions of the plane
  • Secure (no leakage for example)
  • Responsive (to cabin pressure and cabin altitude)
  • Easy for passengers to use the oxygen system through the deployed masks quickly, before the effects of altitude are felt:
  • At 25,000 ft: a person has 3 minutes of consciousness
  • At 41,000 ft: a person has 30 seconds of consciousness

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FLIGHT CREW OXYGEN

The flight crew oxygen should be designed and made with a lot of care, because if any trouble occurs during the flight, the crew must be able to handle the situation and take the airplane and its passengers down safely. Read More