Fuel Line Freezing

  1. loseyourname

    loseyourname 3,632
    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member

    There is a scene in the movie The Day After Tomorrow in which the temperature over Scotland rapidly drops to -150 F. The fuel lines in three helicopters freeze almost instantly and the helicopters fall out of the sky. That didn't seem too plausible to me. If any of you work with such fuel lines, I'm wondering whether or not that is actually possible. Are the lines not insulated, and would the heat from the engine not prevent that?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Clausius2

    Clausius2 1,479
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I congratule myself of finding an american that does not believe in such bad films, created by hollywood industry. Perhaps film makers must have in mind expertise opinions instead of making science-blasphemies.
     
  4. NateTG

    NateTG 2,537
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Aircraft have limited operating ranges, and are relatively fragile. It's entirely possible for helicopters to fail due to temperature changes. Many conventional materials become brittle at temperatures that low, so it's entirely possible that the heilcopter could fall apart.

    Diesel fuel can certainly gellify in fuel lines, at temperatures that are a good bit higher than that, so without fuel additives, it's not entirely improbable that the helicopters would fail. Also remember that it doesn't actually take a whole lot of change in the fuel's properties to alter the performance of the helicopter's engine.

    So although Hollywood is probably taking liberties, it would not at be surprising to see helicopters fail at that temperature, potentially even spectacularly -- think shattering rotors.
     
  5. loseyourname

    loseyourname 3,632
    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member

    Thanks for answers guys.
     
  6. It is most certainly not possible to freeze instantly. The rate of freezing is limited by conduction properties of the fuel line and convection properties of the air. Besides, the temperature higher up the atmosphere drops anyway so aircraft and helicopters are most certainly designed to fly in a pretty cold environment. Rotors are these days made of glass fibre or arbon fiber composites so it is not like they would certainly experience brittle failure such as in metals not designed to operate in extreme cold.

    [​IMG]
     
  7. loseyourname

    loseyourname 3,632
    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member

    Thanks for that link, Simon. The movie had one mistake, to be certain. Climatologists in Scotland would not have been measuring the air temperature in degrees fahrenheit.
     
  8. I heard there is a line in that movie somewhere where some nasa guy shouts that the temperature was dropping 10 degrees a second. that movie has absolutely nothing to do with science...whatsoever
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thead via email, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?
Similar discussions for: Fuel Line Freezing
Loading...