Controls for reuseable plane escape chutes

Paul Boughton

EDM Limited is a major supplier of training and hardware solutions for the world's airlines and air forces. When Air China contacted them for two reusable escape slide simulation systems, for use on Boeing 737 and Airbus A330 Cabin Emergency Evacuation Trainers (CEET), EDM turned to Thorite for technical assistance.

Aircraft escape slides have saved many lives, but each time one is explosively deployed it generally has to be removed from the aircraft completely after the emergency and shipped back to its manufacturer to be fully inspected and repacked, which is both a lengthy and expensive operation. EDM has CEETs for many airlines, which incorporate reusable escape slides.

As the UK's biggest independent supplier of pneumatic products and process systems, Thorite was thel choice to provide compressed air technology to activate and control the emergency training equipment.

The requirement was for a fast-acting, low pressure (10bar) escape slide inflation system, which for the Boeing 737, comprised of a 1,000 litre vertical air receiver, pipework, actuated ball valves and a Thorite-designed and built two-switch control panel. The Airbus A330 deploys a much larger slide, requiring a 4,000 litre horizontal air receiver, pipework, actuated ball valves and a four-switch control panel.

This specialist equipment enabled both aircraft's escape slides to be inflated to 1.9psi in around seven seconds, with this pressure being controlled and maintained by very accurate electronic pressure switches. Thorite also designed and built an additional four-switch panel for the A330, to activate a fire extinguisher simulation system.

To round the project off, Thorite carried out all system testing on site and supplied a ‘written scheme’ in line with the UK Pressure Systems Safety Regulations 2000.

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