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Controlling Nuisance Moisture in Commercial Airplanes

Moisture-related problems have been reported on commercial airplanes for the past 40 years. They include water dripping onto passengers, electrical equipment failures, and wet insulation blankets. ll airplanes will e!perience moisture-related problems, but the e!tent of these problems will vary tremendously among operators and among individual airplanes depending on how they are used. "oeing has studied moisture-related problems e!tensively and has developed recommendations for minimi#ing moisture problems in its commercial airplanes.
ll commercial airplanes that carry passengers will e!perience moisture-related problems in service. The chief source of moisture inside these airplanes is passenger respiration and the resulting condensation on the airplane skin. fter working with operators to evaluate e!isting and proposed moisture-control methods, "oeing can now offer information to help mitigate the effects of moisture. "oeing team formed to address the moisture issue--known as $rain in the plane$--reviewed operator documentation on the sub%ect and e!amined in-service airplanes with reported moisture problems. &perator reports identified where moisture problems were occurring and which operators were affected. The team then worked to develop cost-effective solutions for moisture control in all "oeing models, including out-of-production as well as current-production and future models. The team developed these solutions after e!amining the following issues' (. )oot causes of moisture problems. *. +ervice e!perience with moisture problems. ,. vailable moisture-control systems.

Root Causes of Moisture Problems -hen studying the origin of moisture problems, "oeing considered the following factors'

Moisture sources and condensation. .rainage and dripping. /ariables affecting condensation. /arying degrees of condensation and moisture problems across model fleets.

Moisture sources and condensation. Most condensation on airplane structure occurs during flight when the temperature of both the outside air and the structure are very cold. +tructure temperatures are usually below the dew point of the cabin air, causing some amount of condensation to form during most flights. 0n addition, because structure temperatures are normally below the free#ing point of water, most condensation forms as frost 1fig. (2. 3ondensation results when moist air moves to the cold structure 1fig. *2. The cabin air passes through small gaps in the insulation coverage and cools rapidly. "uoyancy forces induce a continuous flow of air and continuous movement of moisture to the cold structure. The rate of condensation depends on the rate of buoyancy-driven air movement to the structure as well as the cabin humidity level. 0n-flight cabin humidity levels are low from a standpoint of human comfort 1usually less than *0 percent relative humidity2. 4owever, the air is not completely dry, and any moisture it contains will condense as the air moves over the cold structure. Drainage and dripping. 5rost melts rapidly during descent if conditions allow the airplane skin temperature to rise above free#ing. This causes a sudden onset of drainage, which, if not managed completely, drips into the crown area 1attic2 of the airplane and possibly into the passenger cabin 1fig. ,2. The insulation blankets that cover the structure typically are fiberglass batting covered with waterproof nonmetallic Mylar. This allows water to drain over the outboard Mylar surface similar to how rain drains over roof tiles or shingles. 0deally, all of the water flows to the bilge areas in the belly of the airplane, where it can drain overboard. 4owever, some water may leak through gaps and drip into the crown and possibly into the passenger cabin. +ome water may seep through unavoidable holes in the Mylar covering into the insulation blankets 1fig. *2.

0nsulation blankets generally keep most of the water out of the airplane crown. 4owever, a small amount of water may drip onto passengers or cause electrical equipment failures. Variables affecting condensation. The amount of condensation that forms depends on many factors, all of which belong to one of four categories 1table (2'

irplane design6 configuration. irplane operations. 7nvironment. Maintenance.

3ondensation on structure and the resulting moisture problems are influenced heavily by seating density and airplane operations, especially load factors and utili#ation rates. 4igh passenger loads result in higher cabin humidities and higher condensation rates. 4igh airplane-utili#ation rates result in more time during which the structure is below the dew point or frost point and greater accumulations of frost on a daily basis. Some of the most severe moisture problems occur on airplanes with combinations of high seating density, high load factors, and high utilization rates. Varying degrees of condensation and moisture problems across model fleets. The amount of condensation and the severity of resulting moisture problems vary dramatically across airplane model fleets. The variation in daily crown area condensation for the 898 fleet is illustrated in figure 4. Service E perience !it" Moisture Problems s part of its study, "oeing reviewed operator reports to learn where moisture problems were occurring and which operators were affected. Many operators have reported water dripping into the passenger cabin and problems with e!tremely wet insulation blankets. 0nspection of the upper surface of ceiling panels and stowage bins for water stains indicated that water was dripping through penetrations and gaps in the insulation blankets. 0nspection also showed that water pooling on the upper surface of the ceiling panels and stowage bins 1fig. 92 migrated through %oints into the passenger cabin. "oeing conducted numerous in-service reviews to determine the scope of the moisture problem. s an e!ample, while inspecting airplanes with the most severe moisture problems, "oeing weighed each e!isting insulation blanket on three 8,8-,00 airplanes 1fig. :2. 3omparing these weights with a new shipset of insulation blankets revealed that the removed blankets contained up to ;0 lb 1,: kg2 of water per airplane.

&ther service e!perience results showed that water dripping into electrical equipment has caused some failures. Available Moisture#Control Systems "ecause moist air will inevitably come in contact with cold structure, condensation cannot be eliminated. s a result, "oeing chose to evaluate potential moisture-control systems that can help operators accomplish the following'

Minimi#e condensation. Minimi#e dripping onto equipment and into the passenger cabin. Ma!imi#e liquid drainage. &ptimi#e evaporative drying from wet surfaces and insulation blankets.

"oeing used a test section of a 898 airplane in an environmental test chamber to simulate flight cycles. &ver an e!tended period of time, the test section was used to evaluate frost levels, the amount of water retained in insulation blankets, and new moisture-control methods. /ideo cameras recorded frost formation, melting, drainage, pooling, and drip paths into the passenger cabin. 3ameras were also used to evaluate the performance of some potential moisture-control methods' insulation types, water diverters and collectors, and evaporative materials. 0n-service airplanes, including those equipped with alternative materials for water collection and evaporation, were also tested. )esults of these in-service evaluations determined that proper placement of moisture-control devices is crucial for their performance. n analytical model was created to simulate the buoyancy-driven airflow from the crown volume to the skin. The model also estimated the amount of condensation 1frost2 that forms on the structure. The model was validated using in-service data and lab testing and showed how gaps in insulation, structural temperature variations, and cabin humidity levels affect condensation. The testing produced the following information to help "oeing and operators reduce moisture-related problems'

Test results. Moisture-control system design recommendations. Maintenance recommendations.

$est results. Testing and inspections revealed the following findings'

ll blankets have holes and penetrations. ttempts at sealing them during testing were not effective.

The best way to reduce condensation is by eliminating holes and gaps around the insulation blankets ne!t to the structure. <ome! felt is an e!cellent material for collecting and evaporating moisture. .ehumidification systems 1ground-based or onboard2 are effective at removing moisture but are not cost effective. -ater will seep into the insulation blankets through holes, penetrations, and edge seams. drainage path is necessary to allow the water to drain. 7vaporation is required to dry wet insulation blankets. +pray-on insulation is too heavy to meet thermal and acoustic requirements and makes visual inspection of the structure difficult. 0nspections of aging airplanes revealed that corrosion in the crown area is e!tremely unusual and should be eliminated by incorporating corrosioninhibiting compounds in the crown. 5iberglass batting treated with an enhanced hydrophobic coating does not reduce water retention. ny type of system that increases cabin humidity will e!acerbate the moisture problem.

Moisture#control system design recommendations. "oeing determined that a system 1fig. 82, rather than an individual component, is required to effectively address a moisture problem. The system includes

0nsulation blankets. Moisture-control devices. irflow systems. +tructural drainage. "ilge trays. 7lectrical- equipment protection.

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?ey to controlling moisture, overlapped blankets 1fig. *2 and minimal gaps for structural supports can reduce air movement and condensation. @enetrations for wire runs, electrical brackets, and other equipment should be kept to a minimum. 0n addition, all blankets should have a drainage path.
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<ome! felt should be used to control water on ceiling panels 1fig. ;2, stowage bins 1fig. A2, and structural penetrations. ctive airflow will promote the evaporation of water collected in the felt.
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&nboard systems for ventilating the crown space will help control moisture problems. crown ventilation system that provides a small portion of the cabinsupply air to the crown space will help reduce in-flight condensation and enhance drying of wet surfaces and wet insulation.

The addition of a crown ventilation system is not recommended for airplanes that have overhead recir-culation fans as part of the air-conditioning system.
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-ater drainage through holes and channels should be considered in structural designs such as stringers and intercostals.
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"ilge trays are sheets of molded plastic 1fig. (02 intended to support the insulation blankets. "ilge trays should be used in the lower lobe of the airplane to keep insulation blankets away from any water that has traveled toward the drain valves.
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7quipment that is sensitive to wet environments should be protected or moved from these environments. +ealed electrical connectors should be used to minimi#e moisture entry and to reduce the number of system failures. Maintenance recommendations. &perators can take several steps to reduce moisture-related problems. These actions are related to

0nsulation blankets. Moisture-control methods. "ilge trays. Cround-based dehumidification systems.

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)educing e!posed structure and e!cessive gaps between insulation blankets will decrease the amount of condensation that forms. 7nsuring that blanket %oint areas--whether butt %oints or overlaps--are properly installed will also reduce the creation of condensation and subsequent dripping into the crown area. 0f the blankets are overlapped, drainage holes will remove most of the water and keep it away from the passenger cabin. Maintenance personnel remove wet insulation blankets during maintenance checks and often wring them to e!pel water. This helps dry the blankets, but it also damages the insulative material, reducing the blanketEs thermal and acoustic capabilities.
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service letter 1see sidebar2 has been distributed to all "oeing operators regarding the use of <ome! felt on ceiling panels and stowage bins. pplying <ome! felt to these areas will reduce the amount of water that could drip into the passenger cabin.

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"ilge trays provide better protection than strings and nets currently used in the cargo compartments of most airplanes.
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Cround-based dehumidification systems can maintain very low humidity levels in an airplane. They can significantly enhance the drying of wet surfaces and wet insulation. 4owever, a considerable amount of time is required to dry an airplane using these systems, and the airplane doors must be kept closed for the duration of the process. s a result, most operators are not likely to choose this method in their daily operations. 4owever, the systems may be useful for drying airplanes parked for longer periods. Summary Moisture in commercial airplanes is a comple! issue, and its severity depends on many variables. 3ondensation on airplane structure is impossible to eliminate without prohibitive cost. 4owever, "oeing has developed cost-effective methods for managing moisture once it has condensed that are both feasible and effective. The design improvements and other solutions recommended by "oeing were developed with assistance from operators and considered cost, weight, and ease of installation. ----------------------------------------------%oeing Service &etter "oeing issued the following multipart service letter regarding the installation of felt to prevent water from dripping into the passenger cabin of 808, 8*8, 8,8, 848, 898, 8:8, and 888 models. The letter was issued on Fan. (:, (AA;. 808-+>-*9-0*4 8*8-+>-*9-0,9 8,8-+>-*9-08: 848-+>-*9-(:: 898-+>-*9-0:* 8:8-+>-*9-0;( 888-+>-*9-0(8

--------------------------------------$able ' Airplane Design(Configuration 3onfiguration 7ffect

+eating density More people produce more moisture, causing higher cabin

humidity levels and increased condensation rates. 0nsulation design n insulation design that minimi#es gaps will reduce condensation rates.

The amount of outside air per occupant supplied to the airplane affects the in-flight ir-conditioning humidity level. 0ncreasing the system design outside air per occupant decreases the cabin humidity, which decreases the condensation rates.

3onfiguration >oad factor 1percent of available seats occupied2 =tili#ation rate 1hours per day the airplane is operating2 Airplane )perations Mach number

7ffect More people produce more moisture, causing higher cabin humidity levels and increased condensation rates. 4igh airplane-utili#ation rates result in more time during which the structure is below the dew point and sub%ect to greater accumulations of frost on a daily basis. 4igh-speed flight results in aerodynamic heating of the structure. 4igher Mach numbers will result in warmer structure temperatures and lower condensation rates. 0n general, the outside air temperature and the airplane structure temperatures will decrease with altitude. 4igher cruise altitudes will generally result in higher condensation rates.

3ruising altitude



5or airplanes with overhead recirculation fans or crown ir-conditioning ventilation systems, operating system these fans or air-conditioning operation packs on the ground will help dry out the crown space. &utside temperature Environment 3older structure temperatures cause higher condensation rates. 3older structure temperatures on the ground inhibit the evaporation of moisture from wet insulation. &utside humidity level is not a ma%or influence on condensation on structure. Most condensation on structure occurs during flight when the structure temperature is very cold and the outside air is very dry. 0n most cases, rate of condensation on structure will be much lower during ground operations than in flight, even if the outside humidity level is very high.

&utside humidity level



7ffect Caps in insulation coverage created during maintenance can increase condensation rates. .amage to insulation cover material can increase moisture problems with wet insulation.

0nsulation blanket installation

=se of groundCround-based forced-air based forced-air systems can be useful for


drying airplanes parked for e!tended periods.











Paul *uber +pecialist 7ngineer Payload Systems "oeing 3ommercial irplanes +arl Sc"uster +pecialist 7ngineer Environmental Control Systems "oeing 3ommercial irplanes

Rob $o,nsend Moisture 3ontrol Team @rogram Manager Environmental Control Systems "oeing 3ommercial irplanes