Aircraft Technology: Uses of a Pneumatic System

A pneumatic system can power a variety of important aircraft operations including aircraft landing gear, air conditioning systems, flight control systems, and more. Whether a high-pressure system of 3000 psi, or a low-pressure system of 1000 psi, pneumatic systems are an integral part of today’s aircraft technology. A wonderful example of the uses of a pneumatic system is in its application on a twin-engine commercial airplane.

On this type of aircraft, two 4-stage compressors are controlled by the accessory gearbox of the engines. The main purpose of the pneumatic system in this scenario is to keep 3 storage bottles of compressed air at the systems air pressure requirement. All aircraft have a specific compressed air minimum needed to operate the reliant components, and the number of storage bottles on different aircraft will vary. A twin-engine commuter transport aircraft will have a 750 cu. storage bottle for the main system, 180 cu. bottle for normal break options, and 180 cu. bottles for emergency operations.

The multistage process starts by pulling air through an air duct and routing it to the air pump. This component is the core of the pneumatic system, it can be wet or dry, and pulls air through an inside casing, where it is then compressed. The air compressor raises pressure to slightly above the established needed pressure of the system, similar to hydraulic system methods. Installed control valves help to regulate pressure, flow, and temperature.

A check valve allows pressurized air to enter into the next stages of the pneumatic system at the correct psi. When pressure rises too far above the designated requirement, the valve will trap excess air and release the output. The pressure is controlled by variable restrictors and pressure regulating devices, which alter airflow and load as needed.

Air is then directed through an oil and water trap regulator or separator. As air is compressed, water and contaminants must be removed. Water has the potential to condense and freeze as it travels through the system; oil can contaminate the system. The separator resembles an upside-down soda bottle. Air is routed through a baffle at the top, which suspends 98% of moisture within the air flow. Then, within the cylindrical center of the separator, centrifugal force separates any remaining liquid from the air stream and holds it in a sump at the bottom. An electric heater keeps the excess liquid within the separator from freezing.

Lastly, the pressurized air is routed through an air filter to remove particulates. The air is directed through a 10 micron sintered filter. At this stage, the pressurized air is ready to enter the intended operating systems and is routed to the installed storage bottles.

At NSN Fulfillment, owned and operated by ASAP Semiconductor, we can help you find types of pneumatic systems and pneumatic system parts, new or obsolete. As a premier supplier of parts for the aerospace, civil aviation, and defense industries, we’re always available and ready to help you find all the parts and equipment you need, 24/7x365. For a quick and competitive quote, email us at or call us at +1-714-705-4780


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