What Are Aircraft Inlet Air Filters & Their Basic Types?

Keeping dust out of a reciprocating engine is a critical part of maintaining its functions, as even a tablespoon of dust in an engine can cause internal wear to the extent that a premature overhaul is required. Air contaminants are extremely abrasive to many parts of an engine, such as reciprocating engine cylinder walls and piston ring faces, so it is important to employ the use of a proper filter to prevent extensive damage and costs. Therefore, this blog will delve into the functions and types of various inlet air filters for your aircraft engine.

There are four popular technologies used in most general aviation aircraft today which can be further divided into the categories of “dry media” and “wet media.” The terms dry and wet refer to the filtering medium, where a dry media filter does not require oil to operate. Dry media filters are more common among original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) as they have long lifespans and can be cleaned up to five times over the course of roughly 500 flight hours. While they have historically been made from cellulose and paper fibers, today they are often fabricated from synthetic fibers and pleated into an accordion shape; this shape offers optimal surface area for trapping contaminants. Next, it is then encased in an engine-specific frame that fits the aircraft’s unique requirements. These dry media filters work by sieving dust particles before they reach the engine.

To ensure your inlet air filter lives an optimized lifespan, proper cleaning should be conducted through a multi-step process which involves using compressed air to expel any dust and particulate that has been trapped in filter pleats. Then, you should further inspect the pleated surface to find any damaged or deteriorated media. From here, the filter can then be rinsed, further inspected, and dried.

Meanwhile, wet media filters rely on a tacky oil applied to a substrate, often foam or cotton gauze, to capture particles. The oil does the majority of the work, so as wet media filters dry out over time, they also lose efficiency. Frequently, filters that depend on wet media will require re-applications of oil, and care should always be taken to ensure the oil is not washed off the substrate.

The cleaning process for wet media filters is slightly different as it is more complex, and whether you are cleaning cotton-based or foam-based substrates, the process varies. Foam pads are designed to be removable and should be replaced on a steady basis, usually every 100 flight hours. On the other hand, gauze/cotton-pleated filters can be removed and cleaned with a specific cleaner. First, they should be soaked for 10 minutes, rinsed again, and then left to be dried naturally. Once this is done, you can reapply the oils to your cotton substrate for continued use. Though, make sure that there is complete oil coverage before returning your filter to your aircraft’s engine, and you are then ready to fly.

No matter the choice you make, all filters should be maintained and cleaned regularly, especially in dusty conditions to optimize performance. For any and all air filter part needs, look no further than Aerospace Simplified! Owned and operated by ASAP Semiconductor, we are a leading distributor of premium quality parts from trusted manufacturers around the world. All items in our inventory of over 2 billion new, used, obsolete, and hard-to-find parts are shipped alongside their trace documents for your convenience, and our team of experts work around the clock to provide you with hands-on assistance. To kick off the purchasing process, simply fill out one of our Request for Quote forms to receive a custom quotation within 15 minutes of submission. We only ask that you provide as much delta as possible, such as target prices or shipping time frames, so we can best craft a quote that meets your unique requirements. For further inquiries, we can be reached via phone or email at any time, 24/7x365.


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