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RX3i Controllers Used For Aircraft Fuelling Systems

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GE Fanuc Embedded Systems
: 20 May, 2010  (Application Story)
Bay Associates is delivering aircraft fuelling systems to US Air Force bases equipped with GE controllers to meet the demanding fuel dispensing rates whilst maintaining safe operating conditions
Supplying aircraft fuelling systems to US military bases, Bay Associates of Virginia Beach, VA, performs under an enormous amount of pressure— literally. Using GE Intelligent Platforms’ PACSystems RX3i controllers and Series 90 PLCs and coupled with Proficy Cimplicity HMI/SCADA software, Bay designs unique, high-performance systems that instantaneously respond to the infinitely variable demands and pressure conditions associated with aircraft fuelling.

The largest aviation fuelling system supplier in the world, Bay’s Fuelling Division sells valves, controls, and equipment used in storage, transfer, and dispensing of fossil fuels for military aircraft. Over the past several years, many major airports and military bases have changed their methods of fuelling aircraft from tank-type vehicles loaded at storage facilities away from the apron or ramp, to automated or “hydrant” fuelling systems, eliminating the need for vehicular storage and transport to the aircraft.

Hydrant fuelling systems typically feature a minimum of two tanks, one dedicated to receiving fuel and the other dedicated to dispensing fuel. Both Tanks incorporate pump houses with two to 10 identical fuelling pumps handling individual capacities from 600 to 1,200 gallons per minute. Corresponding capacity filter separators, control valves, and instrumentation for starting and stopping the pumps are incorporated as determined by flow rate demands. Bay uses contactors and electrical components from GE Industrial and GE flow meters from GE Sensing for these highly important tasks.

“Each PLC is programmed to react to pressure conditions within a loop system by communicating to the lead pump,” said Robert Boseman, president of Bay Associates. “When the pressure drops, the PLC brings on the lead pump to adjust the pressure according to demand.” The PLC follows a sequence to bring on additional pumps. If the system is issuing 600 gallons of fuel and only getting 50 gallons on return, additional pumps come online to satisfy the demand, or go offline in the case of over supply.

Depending on I/O specifications, a GE Intelligent Platforms PACSystems RX3i, Series 90-30 or Series 90-70 PLC hardwired to field devices, I/O modules, and, for “hot standby” applications, a Genius® bus, provides communication from the I/O racks to the CPU. Every system incorporates a redundancy system for downtime production. Bay’s latest hydrant control systems uses the PACSystems RX3i to monitor and control 500 I/O points -- 90% digital I/O and 10% analogue I/O.

“Downtime at any airport is extremely costly in lost production, flight scheduling delays, and mission critical operations,” said Joben Kronebusch, Global Product General Manager for GE Intelligent Platforms. “Infrastructure delays can cost well over $1,000 per minute. And, if the fuel system goes down management needs to allocate more manpower to manually operate the delivery system.”

Proficy Cimplicity software is used for information exchange through a desktop computer interface to run diagnostics or check field devices like pressure and flow transmitters, showing historical and trend information. With this information operators can understand how the system is running and can run diagnostics, recreate fault conditions, and keep the system running more efficiently.

Constantly changing fuel demands create the continuous challenge of maintaining safe, yet efficient pressures for optimum fuel distribution. “If an aircraft valve closes before an operator stops fuelling, that sudden change in pressure can cause problematic surge conditions that can lead pumps to fail or, even worse, equipment to rupture,” said Boseman. “With GE PLCs, our fuelling systems can safely manage surge conditions, thereby preventing fuel spills, damage to the aircraft, and, most important, operator injuries and loss of life.”
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