Explosion-suppressant foam now for business a/c

 - January 11, 2008, 10:33 AM

Crest Foam Industries of Moonachie, N.J., which has been installing its explosion-suppressant arresting foam in the fuel tanks of racing cars and military aircraft (including USAF Beechjets) for years, has formed a joint venture–Engineering Inerting Systems–with Aircraft Services Group of Ramsey, N.J., to market the foam for business aircraft.

The initial aircraft the company is aiming for is the Boeing Business Jet. An STC for use of the foam in BBJ center wing tanks is expected in about six months, according to George Salamy, v-p of technical product development for Engineering Inerting Systems. Fabrication and installation cost is about $60,000 per tank, and use of the foam in a BBJ adds about 600 pounds to the aircraft’s empty weight, the company said.

The project offers “significant advantages” over other methods of fuel-tank inerting, the company claims. “The material is maintenance free and completely passive; it has no mechanical or electrical parts to fail. Its use and installation require no modification to any existing aircraft systems, such as pumps, sensors, plumbing or valves, and it does not require the installation of any supporting or monitoring systems. In addition, explosion-suppressant foam does not require action by pilots or other crewmembers. Once installed, it continues to function.”

The polyurethane foam, processed to enable fuel to pass through it readily, works by preventing flame propagation, confining ignition to the immediate area of the ignition source in the event the tank is ruptured by “small arms fire, shrapnel or runway or airframe debris,” according to the manufacturer. “The foam also prevents catastrophic explosions of ignited fuel vapors caused by electrical arcing, overheating of internal components, lightning strikes and static electrical discharge.” Other claimed advantages are that it helps mitigate fuel spray in the event of fuel-tank rupture and baffles fuel to control surging and eliminate sloshing.

A long service life is also being touted for the foam. Engineered Inerting Systems said that foam removed from a U.S. Navy P-3 Orion was tested and “proved to be just as good as when it was installed 11 years earlier, with no degradation of properties. Consequently the Navy has certified explosion-suppressant arresting foam for a 14-year service life in its P-3s, with an anticipated life of over 20 years, as more experience is gained.”

Fuel-tank inerting foam may be installed in all new aircraft fuel tanks–flexible, rigid or semi-rigid–and retrofitted in existing tanks as well. The foam is fabricated into discrete sections designed to conform to structural members and equipment and components in place such as pumps, valves, level gauges, filters and fuel lines. It is installed in the tanks after fuel lines are routed and electrical connections are made.

Crest Foam Industries opted to partner with Aircraft Services Group because of the New Jersey company’s inroads in marketing safety equipment to business aviation. Aircraft Services Group is the exclusive dealer for the emergency visual assurance system, a device that allows a pilot in a smoke-filled cockpit to see the instruments and partially out the windshield.