BlazeTank:  Model of Aircraft Fuel Tank Flammability, Fire and Explosion

BlazeTank is an engineering model developed by BlazeTech Corp. to determine whether the ullage in a fuel tank is flammable and calculate the overpressure due to fuel tank explosion. Since 1959, there have been 17 fuel tank ignition events resulting in 542 fatalities (FAA).  The following recent accidents have prompted the FAA to issue SFAR-88 that requires the minimization of ignition sources in fuel tanks:

  • CWT explosion during pushback from gate in Boeing 737-300 in Manila, Philippines, 1990 resulting in 8 fatalities.
  • CWT explosion during climb in Boeing 747, TWA Flight 800 near JFK in 1996 resulting in 230 fatalities.
  • CWT explosion on ground minutes after refueling in Boeing 737-400 in Bangkok, Thailand in 2001 resulting in one fatality.

BlazeTank can be used to predict these explosions.  Such assessment can be used to devise appropriate prevention/protection methods to protect aircraft and save lives.

BlazeTank Inputs: fuel type, amount, temperature, fuel tank dimensions, ignition source location, type and strength, vent size, vent relief pressure, and flight profile (altitude versus time, fuel extraction rate to engine, fuel temperature and tank wall temperatures).

BlazeTank Outputs: temperature and concentration gradients in fuel tank, flammable volume inside fuel tank, tank pressure and venting history as functions of flight mission time; location of flammable zone relative to ignition source; if explosion occurs, it predicts the overpressure, mass and pressure loss due to venting, temperature rise and burn rate as functions of time.

BlazeTank has a database of fuel properties including the molecular formula and molecular weight, density, flammability limits, heat of formation, heat capacity and vapor pressure as functions of temperature, solubilities of oxygen and nitrogen in fuel and flame speed parameters. 

BlazeTank runs on IBM PC compatible computers with Windows 95/NT (or later) operating systems. Combined with powerful plotting capabilities and a Graphical User Interface (GUI) for ease of use, BlazeTank has all the necessary requirements to be an effective tool for the assessment of fuel tank explosion hazard.  BlazeTank has been validated against selected test data (see figures below). Interested users can either buy a service (we run it for you) or the software license for $10,000.

Figure: Comparison of BlazeTank Prediction with ¼ Scale Test Data Obtained in a study sponsored by NTSB (Shepherd et al., 1998). Symbols represent test data and solid line represents model predictions.

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