Hydraulic systems use pressurized fluids to drive machinery. The standard hydraulic system is composed of three components: the pressure generator and plumbing, as well as the motor.
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The hydraulic pump that drives the pressure generator is either an electric motor, engine, or manual pump. Plumbing refers to valves, filters, and pipes. The motor can be either a hydraulic motor or a hydraulic cylinder.
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Nearly all aircraft have hydraulic systems. In small aircraft, hydraulic components can be used to control the wheel brakes. In larger aircraft, hydraulic systems can provide power for systems such as nose wheel steering, landing gear extensions/retraction, flight controls, and more.
A combustible hydraulic system can cause a fire if it is combined with an ignition source. Hydraulic fluid fires are dangerous and can lead to the loss of aircraft. In the event of a post-crash fire, hydraulic fire can provide another source of fuel.
Hydraulic fires can be stopped by two things: first, aircraft have two defenses. Hydraulic fluids that are specially engineered for aviation use have fire-resistant properties. These fluids are made up of phosphate esters, which, unlike hydraulic fluids that are based on mineral oils, can be difficult to ignite at normal operating temperatures.
It can also combust if it reaches temperatures above 180 degrees Celsius. The auto-ignition temperature for most aviation hydraulic fluids is around 475 degrees Celsius. Pilots can also use cockpit brake temperature indicators to warn them of potential wheel well fires.