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This paper describes the use of Fluid Flow Simulation Software to model a
passenger aircraft environmental control system. The analysis simulates the
cooling pack and the aircraft distribution system in a single model.
The paper details how to use 1D fuid fow analysis to predict the impact of
possible design changes on system performance. The object of performing these
simulations is to avoid problems that would otherwise be later discovered in
Environmental control systems (ECS) involve the implementation of processes
that either cool or heat a given amount of air for the comfort of passengers
and the safety of electrical equipment. Additionally, it is sometimes necessary
to either increase or decrease the moisture content of the air in the system.
Changes in atmospheric conditions (temperature, pressure, altitude, relative
humidity) often necessitate the thoughtful design of environmental control
systems. Computer simulations can decrease design times while leading to a
more robust control system. A typical airliner must supply an adequate supply of
fresh air while maintaining the cabin at a tolerable pressure and temperature.
Modern military aircrafts combine the thermal management and environmental
control into a single system further increasing the usefulness of computer
A 1D lumped parameter methodology can be used to model the environmental
control system with or without an integrated system thermal management. In
our analysis, the commercially available Flowmaster software was used to
construct the mathematical models. The models were used to size the various
components in the control system and to verify that the system performed
under various conditions. The analysis focused on the distribution of air based
on temperature, pressure and fow rate. Additionally, the cooling pack performance
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was investigated by testing a range of boundary conditions while observing the
resulting system conditions.
Computer simulation of an aircrafts environmental control system enable
proper understanding and characterization of the system, helps lower design
time and cut down on costly in-fight testing. Components such as the control
valves, ram air heat exchangers, recirculation fans and cooling pack compressors
can be sized and optimized by the design engineers through simulation. System
analysis through simulation on Flowmaster allows engineers to model a variety
of conditions before building test vehicles, saving both time and money.
Environmental Control System Background
Most commercial aircraft designs include both a system for heating and cooling
the aircraft to maintain a tolerable in-fight environment. These systems must
provide the proper airfow required to each passenger. In addition, these
systems must keep the pressure of plane within certain perimeters. Changes in
atmospheric conditions (temperature, pressure, altitude, humidity) necessitate
the thoughtful design of environmental control systems for proper operation.
The aerospace ECS designer must also meet weight, size and accessibility
requirements for use on an aircraft.
The ECS designer must be aware of several design requirements. These include
the pressure differential between cabin and the exterior, cabin pressure rate of
change on ascent or descent, temperature differential, ventilation fow rates and
airfow supply fow rates in the cabin.
The ECS designer must ensure that any air cooling and distribution design
proposed is capable of meeting all of the above requirements prior to
implementation. With this in mind the concentration of any air distribution
analysis work would be the determination of air pressures, temperatures and
air fow rates throughout the system.
A second area of importance to the ECS designer is the performance of the
cooling packs used to provide temperature control for the circulating air. Such
systems work on an air cycle. This type of unit is depicted in Figure 1 on the next
page. Bleed air is taken from the engine compressor for purposes of cooling.
The bleed air (Hot Pressurized Air) is passed through one or more heat exchangers
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where it exchanges heat with ambient air (RAM air). The cooled bleed air then
is passed through a turbine where it is expanded and cooled further. The power
output of the turbine drives a compressor that is used to pressurize the air prior
to entry into the turbine. This design is referred to as a bootstrap turbine.
Next, the air is passed through a water separator used to collect the condensate
produced in the turbine. This is the mechanism normally employed to control
the moisture content of the air introduced into the passenger compartment. Both
high and low pressure designs exist for this function. The water separator is one
of two components in the circuit (the other being the turbine) where large scale
changes in moisture content are expected from inlet to outlet.
Finally, the cooled dehumidifed air is introduced into the passenger compartment by
way of a distribution system.
Such cooling packs usually operate on an air cycle as described above, however
vapor compression cycles are also encountered. An engineer may well need to
size a compressor or turbine or heat exchanger in order to ensure that the system
as a whole is capable of meeting the thermal requirements imposed.
ECS Test Case Overview
The focus of the study was to take a commercial aircraft and to investigate the
feasibility of modeling an ECS system for that aircraft. In our study, we specifcally
looked at varying items such as duct (pipe) sizes, fow exhaust ports, compressor
Figure 1 - Drawing of an Aircraft ECS System.
Reproduced from 1991 ASHRAE Applications Handbook.
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sizes to obtain an acceptable design. The design in this study would be considered
an initial layout and sizing operation. More detailed three dimensional pipe
layouts were not a part of this study.
The Boeing 737- 800 was selected as an approximate aircraft size. The estimated
characteristics of the aircraft are shown in Table 1.
The estimated aircraft information was used to create a representative model
that would have a realistic system volume and length of piping. Please note
that Flowmaster USA did not use any engineering data or piping layouts of the
Boeing 737-800. The aircraft dimensional characteristics were used as an
Design Criterion
The design requirements of the cabin Environmental Control System for this
study are of Pressure, Flow Rate and Temperature. Cabin humidifcation design
considerations were omitted from this study.
A very crucial design requirement is cabin pressure. As the outside pressure
varies with altitude, so does the operating pressure inside the cabin. The
maximum cabin to outside pressure differential is limited by the schedule of steel
on the cabin hull. According to ASHRAE, commercial aircraft have an 8.60 psi
maximum cabin to outside pressure differential. At a cruise altitude of 39,000ft,
the cabin pressure is approximately 11.5 psi (cabin equivalent altitude of
6,900ft.). This study investigated steady state conditions at cruise altitude.
For transient analysis, varying cabin pressure and the rate of change of internal
pressure should also be considered.
Table 1 Estimated Aircraft Characteristics
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The fow rate of air in the Environmental Control System depends directly the
100% capacity number of passengers in the aircraft. The total fow rate
supplied is equal to approximately 20 cfm per passenger. The total fow rate is
typically comprised of 50% fresh air and 50% fltered recirculated air. This rate
of fresh air supply results in a complete cabin air exchange approximately every
2 minutes. As shown in Table 1, the capacity of this aircraft was assumed to
be 176 passengers. Thus the required fresh air fow rate for this aircraft is
approximately 1760 cfm and the required recirculation air fow rate is approximately
1760 cfm.
Air velocity relates directly to the fow rate of air supplied. Although air velocity
is important consideration, no design criterion was applied to this study.
The fnal cabin design consideration is temperature. Cabin temperature must
be maintained to tolerable limits throughout the fight. Outside air temperatures
can vary from -115F at high altitudes in frigid locations to 120F at ground level
in very high temperature regions of the world. Opinion of tolerable limit can
vary from passenger to passenger. For the study, 65F to 75F was chosen as
a design target. Passengers affect the temperature of the cabin as they release
heat into the cabin atmosphere. In this cruise altitude steady state analysis,
the passenger heat generation was modeled as the primary heat load on the
The cooling pack has some additional design considerations. The turbine jet
engine bleed air system supplies the fresh air to the air conditioning pack. The
bleed system must be designed to provide a regulated pressure to the air
conditioning pack. At cruise conditions, the regulated bleed air enters the
air conditioning pack at a pressure of 30 psi. The temperature of air varies
signifcantly depending on fight conditions. At cruise speed and altitude, the
bleed air temperature is approximately 400F. However, this temperature can
vary from 300 to 550F during decent or climb. In this study we looked at steady
state conditions, so 400F was used in the analysis.
Flowmaster Computer Model
The system was modeled and analyzed with commercially available Flowmaster
software. Flowmaster is a 1-Dimensional fuid fow and pressure drop analysis
tool that performs both Steady State and Transient calculations. Heat transfer
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and compressible analysis are also available. The environmental control system
is an airfow system, thus the study was conducted with the compressible
analysis module.
The model was created by building a schematic representation of the system
with Flowmasters graphical user interface. A database of standard components
are available to the user along with the ability to create customized component
models. After creating the graphical representation of the model, engineering
data is entered into component data sheets through the Windows style interface.
The drag and drop interface is divided up into a series of families, such as
pipes, valves, junctions, gauges, orifces etc.

The frst section detailed was the plane cabin. Figure 2 shows a section of the
engine cabin Flowmaster model. Starting at the top of this fgure and working
down, you can see the Flowmaster pipe and junction components that represent
the supply ducts. Next, there are valve and orifce components that model the
passageway to the cabin. Additionally, the component labeled HC models the
heat fow from the passengers to the cabin air. Attached to this heat fow
component is a gauge that measures volumetric fow rate and displays the
results as per person for this region of the cabin. Finally, the pipe at the bottom of
Figure 2 models the actual cabin. This pipe component was modeled as a very
large diameter to simulate the cabin volume. Another set of orifce, pipe and
junction components model the return ducting (not shown in Figure 2).
This portion of the model could represent a single row of passengers or a section
of passengers. The method of modeling affects the input component data and
Figure 2 Section of the Flowmaster cabin model
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the size of the model. However, the smaller the section that the above model
segment represents, the more detailed the results will be. For this study, we
decided a segment of the model as shown in Figure 2, represents a section of
eight passengers. Thus, a total of twenty two simulation model segments (two
rows of eleven) were used to model the cabin.
The cabin air was supplied by both fresh air supplied by two cooling packs
and by 50% recirculation. Each cooling pack supplied half the necessary fresh
air fow rate. The cooling pack model is shown in Figure 3. The fresh air supplied
to cabin originates from the engine bleed air. The high temperature bleed air is
cooled by the primary heat exchanger (labeled primary) and then enters the
compressor component. The exit of the compressor then passes through the
secondary heat exchanger to some piping on to the re-heater and condenser.
At the outlet of the condenser is the water extractor. However, this system
was modeled as a single phase environment. Only the pressure losses
associated with the water extraction are included in the model. After water
extraction, the air is passed through the re-heater heat exchanger again and then
enters the turbine component.
The turbine component was the only custom component model used in this
analysis. This type of component is referred to by Flowmaster as an External
Component Module (ECM). The engineering equations that relate the temperature,
pressure, fow rate, power, turbine speed etc for this component were encoded
Figure 3 Flowmaster Cooling Pack Model
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into a relatively simple C programming code. Flowmaster then incorporates that
C code with its solver to perform the analysis. The turbine model used in
this analysis uses a two turbine surface maps. One surface relates mass fow
rate to pressure ratio and turbine speed. The other relates turbine effciency to
mass fow rate and pressure ratio. The method was found in Internal Combustion
Engine Fundamentals. Alternate theoretical or test data models could be applied
with a similar method.
The combination of the turbine and compressor components model a bootstrap
compressor. In reality, the compressor and turbine are connected via the turbine
shaft that powers the compressor. In the Flowmaster model, the two components
are connected with control signal connections. The turbine calculates power
and torque. The quantity of torque is sent as a signal to the compressor
component. The compressor uses this signal and returns an output of speed
to the turbine. The net result is the compressor and turbine operate at the same
speed. Additionally, the power output by the turbine equals the power input to
the compressor. Although the hydraulic input by the compressor does not exactly
equal the turbine power output, as the compressor effciency is considered.
Another item of importance in this model is the RAM air.
Figure 4 Flowmaster Mix Manifold model
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The temperature and quantity of RAM air affects the both the primary and
secondary heat exchanger performance. The performance of these heat
exchangers eventually affects the outlet temperature and fow rate from the
turbine. The RAM air was estimated for cruise altitude and speed at a temperature
of -70 F and a pressure of 11.3 psi. The two control valves regulate the fow rate
of air through the heat exchangers. In a detailed study, thoughtful considerations
would be made to the sizing and characteristics to the RAM air fow control
system. Furthermore, the heat exchanger performance maps could be input into
Flowmaster to get a more accurate result. All of this data will affect the
temperature exiting the turbine.
The cooled air leaving the turbine side of the bootstrap compressor is cooled
below the proper supply temperature. This extra cooling capacity is used to
provide the condensate cooling. If the system is adjusted properly, the air
exiting the condenser will be at the correct temperature, pressure and fow rate.
The air conditioning pack supply fresh air to the aircrafts mix manifold.
The mix manifold combines the fltered, recirculated air with the fresh air from
the air conditioning pack. Figure 4 shows the Flowmaster model of the Mix
Manifold section. Air returns from cabin through ducting. Some of the returned air
exits the plane through the exhaust valve. In the Flowmaster model, this valve is
modeled as a pressure regulating ball valve. The valve measures the pressure
immediately upstream of the valve and adjusts the position to maintain the proper
cabin pressurization.
The remaining return air passes through a flter, which was modeled as a discrete
loss (miscellaneous component that models pressure loss vs. fow rate). Two
fans act as the driving force for the recirculation. In our model, the standard
Flowmaster fan component was used. This component uses a curve input of
static pressure rise vs. inlet volumetric fow rate. Affnity laws adjust from the
design point of the fan to the operating point. The fan data sheet is shown as
an example of a Flowmaster component data sheet in Figure 5.
At the exit of the fan is the actual mix manifold. The four discrete loss
components have been used to estimate the mixing and entrance losses. The mix
manifold exits back to the cabin distribution system through ducting, modeled with
the pipe component.
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All of these sections were tied together to create a single model that represents the
cabin environmental control system. Figure 6 shows the whole model as it was used
in our simulation.
Figure 5 Flowmaster Fan Component Data
Figure 6 Arrangement of complete Flowmaster ECS Model
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Cabin Model Results
The ECS model results were achieved through a series of analysis.
Components such as the turbine and compressor in the cooling pack required
sizing to produce the required fow rate, pressure and temperature. At times,
sections of the model were analyzed independently to aid in sizing. However,
modifying one segment of the system will affect the entire system performance.
The entire model was analyzed to determine fnal results. Results were
compared to the design criterion and if needed changes to components were
made. Typically, multiple changes to the system were required to get the entire
system to meet all design criterions. For example, modifying the recirculation fan
size to change the percent recirculation may also result in a change in cabin
pressure and temperature. The change in cabin pressure then changes the
backpressure on the cooling packs and affects the cooling pack performance.
The fnal results were culminated from the series of analysis and models.
The cabin had three main design criterions the results were compared against,
volumetric fow rate per passenger, cabin pressure and cabin temperature. The
volumetric fow rate per passenger was automatically calculated by a gauge
component. The fow rate was calculated at all twenty two of the modeled
distribution points in the system. The cabin model has two parallel fow paths
that have identical results. Only one set of data is presented. The results are
shown as a function of distance from the frst distribution point downstream of
the mix manifold.
Figure 7 shows the both the Volumetric Flow rate Distribution and the supply
pressure vs. distance from the frst distribution location. As stated in the
design criterion, the fow rate per passenger should be 20 cfm. Figure 7
shows that the supply of air starts at 21.6 cfm and decreases to 14.72 cfm at
the furthest distance from the mix manifold. The decrease in fow rate to
the passengers is attributed to the drop in supply pressure. The pressure of
supply air immediately before the passenger control valve and outlet orifce
is shown in Figure 7. These results indicate that design changes must be
made to provide some of the passengers with the required fow rate. The
passengers beyond 40 ft from the frst distribution point do not meet the
design criterion. Piping changes could be made to decrease the pressure drop
in the supply line.
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The design criterion for cabin pressure was 11.60 psi. Figure 8 shows a section
of the system pressure plot generated by Flowmaster. The results at the
nodes that separate the Aisle pipes represent the pressure in the cabin. Three
of these pressures are shown in Figure 8 with the value of 11.64 psi. The cabin
is modeled a segmented large pipe. Due to the size and velocity in the pipe,
the cabin does not have pressure variation. Three dimensional fow patterns
inside the cabin are not modeled as Flowmaster is a 1D fuid fow solver.
Finally, the temperature inside the cabin must meet the design criterion. Both
the temperature of the air supplied to the passengers and the cabin temperature
must be considered. The cabin may be at an appropriate average temperature,
but if the air blowing on the passengers is very cold then the design is undesirable.
Figure 7 Volumetric Flow Rate and Supply Pressure Vs.
Distance from First Distribution Point
Figure 8 Flowmaster System Pressure Plot (results
shown in psia)
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The fnal design had a ECS supply temperature of approximately 65.2F
throughout the cabin. Although the supply temperature was nearly constant,
the average cabin temperature by zone did vary. Figure 9 shows the cabin
temperature vs. distance from the frst distribution point. Beyond 20 feet from the
frst air distribution point the cabin become somewhat warm. The temperature
of the cabin is a heat balance between the air entering, the air leaving and the
heat generated by the passengers. As shown in Figure 7 the fow rate of air
is less than the design criterion in this region. The lack of fow rate of 65.2F
air creates this increase in average zone temperature.
This problem could be addressed in a number of ways. The total fow rate of
cool air could be increased. Alternatively, the temperature of the supplied air
could be decreased. Both solutions would affectively shift the temperature
gradient downward. Another solution is to increase the supplied cool air fow rate
in the areas where the fow rate does not meet the design criterion. This
would require piping changes as earlier described.
In summary, the cabin model resulted in the ability to predict the pressure,
temperature and air supply fow rate. The model allows the engineer to quickly
simulate possible design changes without the need for testing.
Mix Manifold Model Results
The mix manifold section has some design criterion to meet and has sizing
results for the recirculation fans. According to the design criterion, 50% of the
Figure 9 Cabin Temperature vs. Distance from
First Distribution Point
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air should be recirculated and 50% should be fresh air. This mix is determined
by the output conditions of the two air conditioning pack, the size of the
recirculation fans and the cabin pressure drop characteristics.
Figure 10 and Table 2 characterize the fnal system design. Figure 10 displays
the mass fow balance in the mix manifold section. Approximately 48% of cabin
supply air is recirculated and 52% is fresh air from the air conditioning packs.
Figure 10 Flowmaster Mass Flow Rate Results at
the Mix Manifold (results shown in lb/min)
Table 2 Flowmaster Recirculation Fan Results
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Table 2 lists the Flowmaster component results for the recirculation fan. The
recirculation fan characteristics were defned in Figure 5. A good estimation of
the fnal design fan and fan motor size can be made with the input characteristics
and the results in Table 2. The hydraulic input result is of specifc concern as it
relates to how large a motor must be used on the fan. The method allows the
engineer to see the impact design changes have on the required recirculation
fan size.
Cooling Pack Model Results
For the cabin ECS to operate in the design parameters, the air conditioning
packs must be sized properly. Though there is some additional results we can
look at. One method for looking at the performance of the cooling pack is
constructing a Temperature vs. Pressure plot of the air. Figure 11 shows the
Flowmaster cooling pack results.
Additionally, Table 3 shows the operating point of the bootstrap compressor system
in our model. This information could be used in comparison to manufacturers
Figure 11 Cooling Pack Performance Displayed
as a P-V diagram
Table 3 Bootstrap Compressor / Turbine Results
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Flowmaster Group. The information supplied in this document is for informational purposes only and is subject to change without notice.
The mark Flowmaster is a community Trade Mark of Flowmaster Group BV. Flowmaster is a registered trademark of Flowmaster Group BV
in the USA and Korea. The names of actual companies and products mentioned herein may be the trademarks of their respective owners.
The Flowmaster product is developed and maintained in accordance to the ISO 9001 Quality Standard.
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The use of fuid fow analysis to simulate an aircraft environmental control
system can provide valuable information to a system designer. The system can
be analyzed from the cooling pack to the aircraft distribution system in a single
model. The design engineer can draw conclusions from the analysis that allows
changes early in the design phase.
Computer simulation can enable proper understanding and characterization of
the system, help lower design time and cut down on costly in-fight testing.
Sizing and optimization of components such as the control valves, ram air
heat exchangers, recirculation fans and cooling pack compressors can be
achieved. Airfow rates and temperature distributions through the cabin can
be predicted. Analysis through simulation on Flowmaster allows engineers to
model a variety of conditions before building test aircrafts, saving both time and
Commercial Airliner Environment Control System.
ASHRAE Applications Handbook, Chapter 9 Aircraft, 1991.
Heywood, John B. Internal Combustion Engine Fundamentals. McGraw-Hill
Publishing Company. Pp 263-270.