I know there are smoke detectors in aircraft but on what principle(s) do they generally work?

Commercial smoke detectors can use several different techniques like optical sensing, heat sensing and particle sensing. Do aircraft smoke detectors also work using one of these technologies or something different?

  • $\begingroup$ The FAA has a really nice guide. $\endgroup$
    – CGCampbell
    May 11, 2015 at 13:31
  • $\begingroup$ What make you think smoke detectors would be different in planes? If so, why would we not use airplane smoke detectors on the doing l ground? $\endgroup$
    – Aron
    May 11, 2015 at 19:40
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Aron I think the question is along the lines of "Of the various types of smoke detectors, which type(s) are used on aircraft?" $\endgroup$ May 13, 2015 at 15:11

1 Answer 1


The typical aircraft smoke detector works using optical sensing which exploits the Tyndall light scattering effect.

From Boeing:

enter image description here

An LED illuminates a sample of air while a light sensor, which is not in line-of-sight with the LED, looks at the same sample of air. If enough light is scattered by smoke particles then the detector will signal an alarm.

  • $\begingroup$ I was doing some research and one FAA doc says, it works on particle sensing. So, now i am confused. Do you have any reference which says it works on optical sensing. $\endgroup$
    – NitinG
    May 13, 2015 at 4:43
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ In essence the two are the same. The particles are sensed by their scattering effect on the light. I am the reference... I was at one time the chief mechanical engineer at a company that specializes in aircraft fire protection. $\endgroup$ May 13, 2015 at 5:53
  • $\begingroup$ ahok, good to know that. I was looking at Kidde products on this and i think they have some similar smoke detectors. $\endgroup$
    – NitinG
    May 13, 2015 at 5:59

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