When flying, you probably aren’t thinking about the many components that keep an aircraft in flight. Despite this, there are countless parts, both small and large, working together in an aircraft to keep it airborne. One part that the average passenger might not know about is the liquid level sensor. Regardless, this and other sensors play a major role in ensuring the proper function of an aircraft. This blog will explain the four main sensors on an aircraft: the liquid level sensor, temperature sensor, flow sensor, and airplane pressure sensor, and provide insight on the details of each sensor’s functions.
In an aircraft, the liquid level sensors are found in the thermowells, reservoirs, tanks, sumps, and gearboxes. Liquid level sensors are an important part of interfacing with the aircraft. They typically connect to an array of interface elements which subsequently connect to the onboard display units within the cockpit. Among other things, these sensors help the pilot and crew understand how the oil, fuel, and coolant levels are doing. In many aircraft, the liquid level sensor also measures the fluid levels in potable, waste water, and hydraulic reservoirs.
Another important sensor is the temperature sensor. These play an important role as they measure the temperature of various engine parts within the aircraft. These sensors are critical because they allow the crew to see if parts of the aircraft are too hot or cold - either of which could signify a major problem. Types of temperature sensors include bimetallic temperature gauges, electrical resistance thermometers (such as Wheatstone bridge indicators and ratiometer indicators), and thermocouple temperature indicators.
Flow sensors are used in aircraft where they, as their name suggests, sense the amount of lubricating oil and liquid coolant in motion as well as fluid flowing throughout the aircraft’s fuel transfer and bleed air systems. More often than not, flow sensors are used in conjunction with the liquid level sensors. In addition to monitoring the flow rates of fuel and oil, the fuel sensor can detect problems and notify the crew if anything is amiss. It is mounted within a thermowell and may also feature an electronics unit that connects to a Digital EGT (exhaust gas temperature) gauge. The sensor is usually installed into a pipe that carries the liquid so it can directly measure the flow rate in real time.
The final type of sensor you will find in every aircraft is the pressure sensor. These are used to measure the pressure at a sensing location either above or below a pre-set figure. Pressure sensors are located throughout aircraft in ducts, pipes, tanks, sumps, reservoirs, and even the gearbox. Like all other sensors, these help the pilots monitor the function of the aircraft. The pressure sensor also assists in moving control surfaces, braking, as well as raising and lowering landing gear. Pressure sensor types consist of the bourdon tube, diaphragm, aneroid and bellows mechanisms, as well as solid-state sensors. A common example of a pressure sensor system is the pitot-static system, which serves as the source of pressure for a variety of aircraft instruments, including airspeed indicators, vertical speed indicators, and altimeters.
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