Volume 3, Issue 6 (June 2006)
Fires in P-3 Aircraft Oxygen Systems
Fires in three P-3 air craft oxygen systems have occurred: one in the Royal Australian Air Force in 1984 and two in the U.S. Navy in 1998 and 2003. All three fires started in the aluminum manifold and check valve (MCV) assembly and produced similar damages to the aircraft in which they occurred. This paper discusses a failure analysis conducted by the NASA Johnson Space Center White Sands Test Facility Oxygen Hazards and Testing Team on the 2003 U.S. Navy VP-62 fire. It was surmized that the fire started due to heat generated by an oxygen leak past a silicone check valve seal or possibly because of particle impact near the seat of one of the MCV assembly check valves. An additional analysis of fires in several check valve poppet seals from other aircraft is discussed. These burned poppet seals came from P-3 oxygen systems that had been serviced at the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville following standard fill procedures. It was concluded that these seal fires occurred due to the heat from compression heating, particle impact, or the heat generated by an oxygen leak past the silicone check valve seal. The fact that catastrophic fires did not occur in the case of each check valve seal fire was attributed to the protective nature of the aluminum oxide layer on the check valve poppets. To prevent future fires of this nature, the U.S. and Canadian fleets of P-3 aircraft have been retrofitted with MCV assemblies with an upgraded design and more burn-resistant materials.