General aviation single piston engine aircraft fuel systemSmall piston-engined aircraft often have two fuel tanks, one in each wing, and they use additional components as a means of providing fuel to the single engine. Single fuel tank systems are commonplace.
The fuel is piped through fuel lines to a fuel control valve ( usually known as the fuel selector). This valve serves several functions. The first function is to act as a fuel shut-off valve. This is required to provide the crew with a means to prevent fuel reaching the engine in case of an engine fire. The second role is to allow the pilot to choose which tank feeds the engine. Many aircraft have the Left Tank, Right Tanks selection available to the pilot. Some Cessnas have only the “Both tanks” feeding position, and many have the “Both tanks” position in addition to the Left and right. The reason to have the Left and Right Tank option is to allow pilots to balance fuel load and reduce the banking moment. Occasionally the shut-off function is in a different valve located after the fuel selector valve.
After the selector valve there usually is a gascolator: a fuel filter that can be drained. Drainage points are usually in each tank (often more than one per tank) at the fuel filter and at the injection pump.
Each tank needs to be vented to allow air in the tank to take the place of burned fuel otherwise the tank would be in negative pressure which in the long run would result in engine fuel starvation. The vent also serves to allow for changes in atmospheric pressure with altitude.
Part of the fuel system is also the fuel level indication system, which in the simplest form is a transparent window on the tank side and in its usual application is very similar to the one installed in cars.Large passenger jets use capacitors located at various stations in the fuel tanks. As fuel is burned more air enters the capacitors and the capacitance increases, this is then read by a computer and the fuel amount is calculated and displayed to the pilots.
Multi-engine aircraft fuel systemAdding tanks and engines increases the complexity of the fuel system and its management. Additional features found in multi-engine aircraft are:
- Each wing tank will often have its own electric boost pump as well as each engine will have its own mechanical one replicating the fuel system described above for the single engine
- In case of single engine operations, there is often a method incorporated to "cross feed" the engine (left Tank feeding right engine and vice versa)
- To balance asymmetric weight, flow valves and pumps will often be used to feed both engines from one tank or simply transfer fuel between tanks.