Since the debut of aircraft gas turbine engines, aircraft have been able to reach new heights, distances, speeds, and performance levels that were previously limited by the capabilities of piston power assemblies. The evolution has not stopped with their invention though, as countless advancements and variations have come about leading into the present with many objectives still being carried out today. Despite the advanced capabilities of gas turbine engines, such assemblies will still have the chance of facing various issues over time, making it necessary that pilots have a general understanding of gas turbine troubleshooting and maintenance to maximize performance, safety, and reliability.
To effectively maintain the quality of any gas turbine engine, it is absolutely essential that an effective condition monitoring and maintenance program is established and upheld. Regardless of how exactly this plan is created, it is important to pay attention to main operational conditions and areas like the thermodynamic gas path, turbine vibration and instability, lubrication system condition, and scheduled and proactive inspections for the engine in question. As each of these concerns have an effect on one another, they all must be tackled.
When it comes to thermodynamic gas path conditions, it is important that the gas path is free of any contaminants that may lower turbine blade or nozzle integrity through erosion, corrosion, and fouling. There may also be build-ups of substances that affect the quality of compressed intake air or fuel, further increasing the need for regular cleaning of various sections. Another important aspect to consider for this area is proper fuel mixtures, with too lean or too rich of mixtures causing a number of undesirable effects.
In terms of turbine vibration and instability, such issues are most concerning when they are affecting rotors, bearings, gear box components that are essential for reliable operations. Devices like proximity transducers are often quite beneficial for measuring radial bearing displacement, while accelerometers are best for compressor and turbine blade frequency readings. By using these tools and checking applicable areas, one can quickly determine what parts are causing issues and whether it is due to lubrication deficiencies, improper clearances, or other problems.
While checking lubrication was previously mentioned, it is important that one looks over all lubrication system parts like connections, seals, fittings, and more to see if there are any leaks or damage. Checking oil quantity and pressure levels is also a good way to determine if something is amiss, especially when the leak is internal. While internal leaks may result in the sudden onset of exhaust smoke, you can also use a borescope to inspect for oxidized oil or varnish traces. If you have unusual increases of oil temperature, make sure to check seals, coolers, and other related components.
The final essential element of a proper monitoring and maintenance program is to determine what scheduled inspections and proactive maintenance activities may be necessary for your particular facility and/or applications. Whether you need to conduct an annual fuel nozzle inspection or regular washing procedures, having a set schedule that is optimized to save time while covering all needs is extremely advantageous. Through regular inspection, you will also have the chance to catch a number of issues early, ensuring that you avoid lengthy and expensive downtimes.
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