Corrosion is an all-too-common result of electrochemical reactions between materials and substances in their environment. It is the gradual destruction of the metal by way of a chemical reaction with the environment. Metal corrosion is incredibly damaging to your aircraft, in particular, the engine. A keen eye during a thorough inspection can help spot areas of rust and corrosion that commonly go unnoticed. In certain cases, a complete overhaul is the only way these areas get noticed.
Factors affecting corrosion include acids, salts, and alkalis. It will typically appear as a discoloration (white, green, grey, or red), or a rusting of the metal. Corrosion leads to pitting, which can significantly decrease the strength of the aircraft, induce cracks, and inevitably put the aircraft out of commission. It’s important to recognize that even if your aircraft engine is properly oiled, it is still prone to corrosion; moisture can still be present in oil.
When an aircraft is in use it emits a significant amount of heat. As the aircraft engine oil temperature rises, moisture is driven out and often rises to cooler parts of the engine. This vaporized moisture will settle on the metal and accelerate the corrosion process on whichever surface it landed on. This can occur anywhere heat and condensation accrue on the aircraft.
The frame of your aircraft is also susceptible to corrosion and can suffer from discoloration, or worse, weakening of the material. The weather is a leading contributor to external metal corrosion, making it essentially unavoidable for an aircraft. The water vapor in the air, combined with wet climates, creates a powerful corrosive agitator. If you add in the industrial particles and fumes that your aircraft emits, we have a recipe for corrosion. Inactive aircraft are also susceptible. Proper polishing, treatment, and maintenance are preventative measures that can be implemented to deter corrosion.
It’s imperative to perform regular inspections and maintenance checks to ensure any damage on the aircraft is noticed immediately. Prompt treatment is required to prevent any further corrosion. There are areas that can easily be forgotten when inspecting for signs of corrosion: wheel wells, landing gear, wing flaps, battery compartments, cooling air vents, bilge areas, and any other water entrapment spaces. The risk and cost of corrosion damage are significantly high in aging aircrafts. Aircraft corrosion has become a multibillion-dollar issue, a number which can be reduced by proper and routine inspections.
Corrosion and oxidation are a thorn in an aircraft owners’ side. External aircraft corrosion has the potential to become be costly and dangerous. Environmental factors have the ability to accelerate the corrosion process of aircraft materials, implementing the proper precautions is imperative.
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