Aircraft Turbine Engine Maintenance

Turbine powerplant maintenance procedures vary widely according to the design and construction of the particular engine being serviced. The detailed procedures recommended by the engine manufacturer should be followed when performing inspections or maintenance. Maintenance information presented in this page is not intended to specify the exact manner in which maintenance operations are to be performed, but is included to convey a general idea of the procedures involved. For inspection purpose, the turbine engine is divided into two main sections: the cold and hot.

Compressor Section

Maintenance of the compressor, or cold section, is one of concern because damage to blades can cause engine failure. Much of the damage to the blades arises from foreign matter being drawn into the turbine engine air intakes. The atmosphere near the ground is filled with tiny particles of dirt, oil, soot, and other foreign matter. A large volume of air is introduced into the compressor, and centrifugal force throws the dirt particles outward so that they build up to form a coating on the casing, the vanes, and the compressor blades. Accumulation of dirt on the compressor blades reduces the aerodynamic efficiency of the blades with resultant deterioration in engine performance. The efficiency of the blades is impaired by dirt deposits in a manner similar to that of an aircraft wing under icing conditions. Unsatisfactory acceleration and high exhaust gas temperature can result from foreign deposits on compressor components.

An end result of foreign particles, if allowed to accumulate in sufficient quantity, would be inefficiency. The condition can be remedied by periodic inspection, cleaning, and repair of compressor components.

Compressor Blade Inspection and Cleaning

Minor damage to axial-flow engine compressor blades may be repaired if the damage can be removed without exceeding the allowable limits established by the manufacturer. Typical compressor blade repair limits are shown in Figure 1. Well-rounded damage to leading and trailing edges that is evident on the opposite side of the blade is usually acceptable without re-work, provided the damage is in the outer half of the blade only, and the indentation does not exceed values specified in the engine manufacturer’s service and overhaul instruction manuals. When working on the inner half of the blade, damage must be treated with extreme caution. Repaired compressor blades are inspected by either magnetic particle or fluorescent penetrant inspection methods to ensure that all traces of the damage have been removed. All repairs must be well blended so that surfaces are smooth. [Figure 2] No cracks of any extent are tolerated in any area.

Aircraft Turbine Engine Maintenance
Figure 1. Typical compressor blade repair limits

Aircraft Turbine Engine Maintenance
Figure 2. Examples of repairs to damaged blades

Whenever possible, stoning and local re-work of the blade should be performed parallel to the length of the blade. Rework must be accomplished by hand, using stones, files, or emery cloth. Do not use a power tool to buff the entire area of the blade. The surface finish in the repaired area must be comparable to that of a new blade. On centrifugal flow engines, it is difficult to inspect the compressor inducers without first removing the air-inlet screen. After removing the screen, clean the compressor inducer and inspect it with a strong light. Check each vane for cracks by slowly turning the compressor. Look for cracks in the leading edges. A crack is usually cause for component rejection. The compressor inducers are normally the parts that are damaged by the impingement of foreign material during engine operation.

Compressor inducers are repaired by stoning out and blending the nicks and dents in the critical band (11⁄2 to 21⁄2 inches from the outside edge), if the depth of such nicks or dents does not exceed that specified in the engine manufacturer’s service or overhaul instruction manuals. Repair nicks by stoning out material beyond the depth of damage to remove the resulting cold-worked metal. A generous radius must be applied at the edges of the blend. After blending the nick, it should be smoothed over with a crocus cloth. Pitting nicks or corrosion found on the sides of the inducer vanes are similarly removed by blending.

Causes of Compressor Blade Damage

Loose objects often enter an engine either accidentally or through carelessness. Foreign object damage (FOD), such as pencils, tools, and flashlights, are often drawn into the engine and can cause damage to the fan blades. [Figure 3] Do not carry any objects in pockets when working around operational turbine engines.

Aircraft Turbine Engine Maintenance
Figure 3. Fan blade damage

A compressor rotor can be damaged beyond repair by tools that are left in the air intake, where they are drawn into the engine on subsequent starts. A simple solution to the problem is to check the tools against a tool checklist. Prior to starting a turbine engine, make a minute inspection of engine inlet ducts to assure that items, such as nuts, bolts, lock wire, or tools, were not left there after work had been performed.

Figure 4 shows some examples of blade damage to an axial-flow engine. The descriptions and possible causes of blade damage are given in Figure 5. Corrosion pitting is not considered serious on the compressor stator vanes of axial-flow engines if the pitting is within the allowed tolerance. Do not attempt to repair any vane by straightening, brazing, welding, or soldering. Crocus cloth, fine files, and stones are used to blend out damage by removing a minimum of material and leaving a surface finish comparable to that of a new part. The purpose of this blending is to minimize stresses that concentrate at dents, scratches, or cracks.

Aircraft Turbine Engine Maintenance
Figure 4. Compressor blade damage

Term Appearance Usual Causes
Blend Smooth repair of ragged edge or surface into the contour of surrounding area
Bow Bent blade Foreign objects
Burning Damage to surfaces evidenced by discoloration or, in severe cases, by flow of material Excessive heat
Burr A ragged or turned out edge Grinding or cutting operation
Corrosion (pits) Breakdown of the surface; pitted appearance Corrosive agents—moisture, etc
Cracks A partial fracture (separation) Excessive stress due to shock, overloading, or faulty processing; defective materials; overheating
Dent Small, smoothly rounded hollow Striking of a part with a dull object
Gall A transfer of metal from one surface to another Severe rubbing
Gouging Displacement of material from a surface; a cutting or tearing effect Presence of a comparatively large foreign body between moving parts
Growth Eleongation of blade Continued and/or excessive heat and centrifugal force
Pit (See corrosion)
Profile Contour of a blade or surface
Score Deep scratches Presence of chips between surfaces
Scratch Narrow shallow marks Sand or fine foreign particles; careless handling

Figure 5. Blade maintenance terms

The inspection and repair of air intake guide vanes, swirl vanes, and screens on centrifugal-flow engines necessitates the use of a strong light. Inspect screen assemblies for breaks, rips, or holes. Screens may be tin-dipped to tighten the wire mesh, provided the wires are not worn too thin. If the frame strip or lugs have separated from the screen frames, re-brazing may be necessary.

Inspect the guide and swirl vanes for looseness. Inspect the outer edges of the guide vanes, paying particular attention to the point of contact between the guides and swirl vanes for cracks and dents due to the impingement of foreign particles. Inspect the edges of the swirl vanes. Inspect the downstream edge of the guide vanes very closely, because cracks are generally more prevalent in this area. Cracks that branch or fork out so that a piece of metal could break free and fall into the compressor are cause for vane rejection.

Compressor Blade Blending and Replacement

Because of the thin-sheet construction of hollow vanes, blending on-the concave and convex surfaces, including the leading edge, is limited. Small, shallow dents are acceptable if the damage is of a rounded or gradual contour type and not a sharp or V-type, and if no cracking or tearing of vane material is evident in the damaged area.

Trailing edge damage may be blended, if one-third of the weld seam remains after repair. [Figure 6] Concave surfaces of rubber-filled vanes may have allowable cracks extending inward from the outer airfoil, provided there is no suggestion of pieces breaking away. Using a light and mirror, inspect each guide vane trailing edge and vane body for cracks or damage caused by foreign objects.

Aircraft Turbine Engine Maintenance
Figure 6. Guide vane trailing edge damage

Any inspection and repair of turbine compressor section components require that the technician always use the specific manufacturer’s current information for evaluation and limits of repairs.

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