Aircraft Turbine Engine Combustion Section Inspection

One of the controlling factors in the service life of the turbine engine is the inspection and cleaning of the hot section. Emphasis must be placed on the importance of careful inspection and repair of this section.

The following are general procedures for performing a hot section (turbine and combustion section) inspection. It is not intended to imply that these procedures are to be followed when performing repairs or inspections on turbine engines. However, the various practices are typical of those used on many turbine engines. Where a clearance or tolerance is shown, it is for illustrative purposes only. Always follow the instructions contained in the applicable manufacturer's maintenance and overhaul manuals.

The entire external combustion case should be inspected for evidence of hotspots, exhaust leaks, and distortions before the case is opened. After the combustion case has been opened, the combustion chambers can be inspected for localized overheating, cracks, or excessive wear. [Figure 1] Inspect the first stage turbine blades and nozzle guide vanes for cracks, warping, or FOD. Also inspect the combustion chamber outlet ducts and turbine nozzle for cracks and for evidence of FOD.

Aircraft Turbine Engine Combustion Section Inspection
Figure 1. Combustion case inspection

One of the most frequent discrepancies that are detected while inspecting the hot section of a turbine engine is cracking. These cracks may occur in many forms, and the only way to determine that they are within acceptable limits or if they are allowed at all, is to refer to the applicable engine manufacturer’s service and overhaul manuals.

Cleaning the hot section is not usually necessary for a repair in the field, but in areas of high salt water or other chemicals a turbine rinse should be accomplished.

Engine parts can be degreased by using the emulsion-type cleaners or chlorinated solvents. The emulsion-type cleaners are safe for all metals, since they are neutral and noncorrosive. Cleaning parts by the chlorinated solvent method leaves the parts absolutely dry. If they are not to be subjected to further cleaning operations, they should be sprayed with a corrosion preventive solution to protect them against rust or corrosion. The hot section, which generally includes the combustion section and turbine sections, normally require inspections at regular intervals. The extent of disassembly of the engine to accomplish this inspection varies from different engine types. Most engines require that the combustion case be open for the inspection of the hot section. However, in performing this disassembly, numerous associated parts are readily accessible for inspection. The importance of properly supporting the engine and the parts being removed cannot be overstressed. The alignment of components being removed and installed is also of the utmost importance. After all the inspections and repairs are made, the manufacturer’s detailed assembly instructions should be followed. These instructions are important in efficient engine maintenance, and the ultimate life and performance of the engine. Extreme care must be taken during assembly to prevent dirt, dust, cotter pins, lock wire, nuts, washers, or other foreign material from entering the engine.

Marking Materials for Combustion Section Parts

Certain materials may be used for temporary marking during assembly and disassembly. Always refer to manufacturer’s information for marking parts. Layout dye (lightly applied) or chalk may be used to mark parts that are directly exposed to the engine’s gas path, such as turbine blades and disks, turbine vanes, and combustion chamber liners. A wax marking pencil may be used for parts that are not directly exposed to the gas path. Do not use a wax marking pencil on a liner surface or a turbine rotor. The use of carbon alloy or metallic pencils is not recommended because of the possibility of causing intergranular corrosion attack, that could result in a reduction in material strength and cracking.

Inspection and Repair of Combustion Chambers

Inspect the combustion chambers and covers for cracks by using visible dye or fluorescent penetrant inspection method. Any cracks, nicks, or dents are usually cause for rejecting the component. Inspect the covers, noting particularly the area around the fuel drain bosses for any pits or corrosion. When repairing the combustion chamber liner, the procedures given in the appropriate engine manufacturer’s overhaul instruction manual should be followed. If there is doubt that the liner is serviceable, it should be replaced.

Combustion chambers should be replaced or repaired if two cracks are progressing from a free edge so that their meeting is imminent and could allow a piece of metal that could cause turbine damage to break loose. Separate cracks in the baffle are acceptable. Cracks in the cone are rare but, at any location on this component, is cause for rejection of the liner. Cracks in the swirl vanes are cause for rejection of the liner. Loose swirl vanes may be repaired by silver brazing. Cracks in the front liner emanating from the air holes are acceptable, provided they do not exceed allowable limits. If such cracks fork or link with others, the liner must be repaired. If two cracks originating from the same air hole are diametrically opposite, the liner is acceptable. Radial cracks extending from the interconnector and spark igniter boss are acceptable, if they do not exceed allowable limits and if such cracks do not fork or link with others. Circumferential cracks around the boss pads should be repaired prior to re-use of the liner. Baffle cracks connecting more than two holes should be repaired.

After long periods of engine operation, the external surfaces of the combustion chamber liner location pads often show signs of fretting. This is acceptable, provided no resultant cracks or perforation of the metal is apparent. Any cover or chamber inadvertently dropped on a hard surface or mishandled should be thoroughly inspected for minute cracks that may elongate over a period of time and then open, creating a hazard.

Parts may be found where localized areas have been heated to an extent to buckle small portions of the chamber. Such parts are considered acceptable if the burning of the part has not progressed into an adjacent welded area, or to such an extent as to weaken the structure of the liner weldment. Buckling of the combustion chamber liner can be corrected by straightening the liner. Moderate buckling and associated cracks are acceptable in the row of cooling holes. More severe buckling that produces a pronounced shortening or tilting of the liner is cause for rejection. Upon completion of the repairs by welding, the liner should be restored as closely as possible to its original shape.

Fuel Nozzle and Support Assemblies

Clean all carbon deposits from the nozzles by washing with a cleaning fluid approved by the engine manufacturer, and remove the softened deposits with a soft bristle brush. It is desirable to have filtered air passing through the nozzle during the cleaning operation to carry away deposits as they are loosened. Make sure all parts are clean. Dry the assemblies with clean, filtered air. Because the spray characteristics of the nozzle may become impaired, no attempt should be made to clean the nozzles by scraping with a hard implement or by rubbing with a wire brush. Inspect each component part of the fuel nozzle assembly for nicks and burrs. Many fuel nozzles can be checked by flowing fluid through the nozzle under pressure and closely checking the flow pattern coming for the nozzle.

Turbine Disk Inspection

The inspection for cracks is very important because cracks are not normally allowed. Crack detection, when dealing with the turbine disk and blades, is mostly visual, although structural inspection techniques can be used, such as penetrant methods and others to aid in the inspection. Cracks on the disk necessitate the rejection of the disk and replacement of the turbine rotor. Slight pitting caused by the impingement of foreign matter may be blended by stoning and polishing.

Turbine Blade Inspection

Turbine blades are usually inspected and cleaned in the same manner as compressor blades. However, because of the extreme heat under which the turbine blades operate, they are more susceptible to damage. Using a strong light and a magnifying glass, inspect the turbine blades for stress rupture cracks and deformation of the leading edge. [Figures 2 and 3]

Aircraft Turbine Engine Combustion Section Inspection
Figure 2. Stress rupture cracks

Aircraft Turbine Engine Combustion Section Inspection
Figure 3. Turbine blade waviness

Stress rupture cracks usually appear as minute hairline cracks on or across the leading or trailing edge at a right angle to the edge length. Visible cracks may range in length from one-sixteenth inch upward. Deformation, caused by over-temperature, may appear as waviness and/or areas of varying airfoil thickness along the leading edge. The leading edge must be straight and of uniform thickness along its entire length, except for areas repaired by blending. Do not confuse stress rupture cracks or deformation of the leading edge with foreign material impingement damage or with blending repairs to the blade. When any stress rupture cracks or deformation of the leading edges of the first-stage turbine blades are found, an over-temperature condition must be suspected. Check the individual blades for stretch and the turbine disk for hardness and stretch. Blades removed for a detailed inspection or for a check of turbine disk stretch must be re-installed in the same slots from which they were removed. Number the blades prior to removal.

The turbine blade outer shroud should be inspected for air seal wear. If shroud wear is found, measure the thickness of the shroud at the worn area. Use a micrometer or another suitable and accurate measuring device that ensures a good reading in the bottom of the comparatively narrow wear groove. If the remaining radial thickness of the shroud is less than that specified, the stretched blade must be replaced. Typical blade inspection requirements are indicated in Figure 4. Blade tip curling within a one-half inch square area on the leading edge of the blade tip is usually acceptable if the curling is not sharp. Curling is acceptable on the trailing edge if it does not extend beyond the allowable area. Any sharp bends that may result in cracking or a piece breaking out of the turbine blade is cause for rejection, even though the curl may be within the allowable limits. Each turbine blade should be inspected for cracks.

Aircraft Turbine Engine Combustion Section Inspection
Figure 4. Typical turbine blade inspection

Turbine Blade Replacement Procedure

Turbine blades are generally replaceable, subject to momentweight limitations. These limitations are contained in the engine manufacturer’s applicable technical instructions. If visual inspection of the turbine assembly discloses several broken, cracked, or eroded blades, replacing the entire turbine assembly may be more economical than replacing the damaged blades. [Figure 5]

Aircraft Engine Turbine Blade Replacement Procedure
Figure 5. Typical turbine rotor blade moment-weight distribution

In the initial buildup of the turbine, a complete set of 54 blades made in coded pairs (two blades having the same code letters) is laid out on a bench in the order of diminishing moment-weight. The code letters, indicating the momentweight balance in ounces, are marked on the rear face of the fir-tree section of the blade (viewing the blade as installed at final assembly of the engine). The pair of blades having the heaviest moment-weight is numbered 1 and 28; the next heaviest pair of blades is numbered 2 and 29; the third heaviest pair is numbered 3 and 30. This is continued until all the blades have been numbered. Mark a number 1 on the face of the hub on the turbine disk. The number 1 blade is then installed adjacent to the number 1 on the disk. [Figure 6] The remaining blades are then installed consecutively in a clockwise direction, viewed from the rear face of the turbine disk. If there are several pairs of blades having the same code letters, they are installed consecutively before going to the next code letters. If a blade requires replacement, the diametrically opposite blade must also be replaced. Computer programs generally determine the location for turbine blades for turbine wheels on modern engines.

Aircraft Turbine Engine Combustion Section Inspection
Figure 6. Turbine blades

Turbine Nozzle Inlet Guide Vane Inspection

After removing the required components, the first stage turbine blades and turbine nozzle vanes are accessible for inspection. The blade limits specified in the engine manufacturer’s overhaul and service instruction manual should he adhered to. Figure 7 shows where cracks usually occur on a turbine nozzle assembly. Slight nicks and dents are permissible if the depth of damage is within limits. Inspect the nozzle vanes for nicks or cracks. Small nicks are not cause for vane rejection, provided such nicks blend out smoothly.

Aircraft Turbine Engine Combustion Section Inspection
Figure 7. Turbine nozzle assembly defects

Inspect the nozzle vane supports for defects caused by the impingement of foreign particles. Use a stone to blend any doubtful nicks to a smooth radius. Like turbine blades, it is possible to replace a maximum number of turbine nozzle vanes in some engines. If more than the maximum vanes are damaged, a new turbine nozzle vane assembly must be installed. With the tailpipe (exhaust nozzle) removed, the rear turbine stage can be inspected for any cracks or evidence of blade stretch. Additional nozzle stages can also be inspected with a strong light by looking through the rear-stage turbine.


Checking the clearances is one of the procedures in the maintenance of the turbine section of a turbine engine. The manufacturer’s service and overhaul manual gives the procedures and tolerances for checking the turbine. Turbine clearances being measured at various locations are shown in Figures 8 and 9. To obtain accurate readings, special tools provided by each manufacturer must be used as described in the service instructions for specific engines.

Aircraft Turbine Engine Combustion Section Inspection
Figure 8. Measuring the turbine blades to shroud (tip) clearances

Aircraft Turbine Engine Combustion Section Inspection
Figure 9. Measuring turbine wheel to exhaust cone clearance

Exhaust Section

The exhaust section of the turbine engine is susceptible to heat cracking. This section must be thoroughly inspected along with the inspection the combustion section and turbine section of the engine. Inspect the exhaust cone and exhaust nozzle for cracks, warping, buckling, or hotspots. Hotspots on the tail cone are a good indication of a malfunctioning fuel nozzle or combustion chamber.

The inspection and repair procedures for the hot section of any one gas turbine engine share similarities to those of other gas turbine engines. One usual difference is the nomenclature applied to the various parts of the hot section by the different manufacturers. Other differences include the manner of disassembly, the tooling necessary, and the repair methods and limits.

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