3 Tips to Prevent Damage to Your Engine in a Cold Environment

Feb. 18, 2017 | | 2 min read

Your engine is designed for the cold. Like aircraft that fly at sub-zero, high-altitude temperatures, engines are also built to handle cold weather operations. Harsh, icy conditions can cause some difficulties for aircraft operators. Preparing the engine for cold can help.

1. Cover up the engine

For engines, just like people, covering up during cold weather operations is a good idea. In the case of your engine, the idea is to keep snow and ice out while it’s on the ground. If they get in, your fan could lock up and stop you from taking off. Even when it’s not actually snowing, strong winds could blow fallen snow into your engine. Cover up the inlet and exhaust, especially if you’re not going to use the engine for a couple of days. Check out these tips to preserve your engine during a period of inactivity.

If you’re using a turbofan engine, putting covers on to help stop “windmilling”, which causes the engine’s fan to turn even though it’s not running which can lead to long-term fretting wear.

2. Use a heated blanket

If you’re planning to take off in an extreme cold environment, you need to make sure your engine is warm enough to start and the oil is heated to the required temperature. Save time and put a heated blanket over the engine the night before. That will keep it at a reasonable temperature overnight, and it won’t take so long to warm up once you start it.

3. Respect your engine’s cold weather operation limits

While they may be built for cold, all engines have their limits. This is determined during certification by cold-soaking and testing them in extreme conditions. Based on the certification process, the minimum required temperature to start your engine will be set. If it’s colder than that outside, your engine won’t start: so make sure it doesn’t have to. For instance, if you’re flying from North America to Europe and planning a refueling stop in Greenland, you need to be sure your engine can start up again afterward. Otherwise, your brief layover could be a lot longer—and chillier—than expected!

Finally, before your start your engine, don’t forget to clear any ice from the propeller. Ice thrown by a propeller could be dangerous to people and objects in the vicinity.

Whenever your aircraft is operating or parked in icy conditions, follow these tips to make sure you don’t get caught cold next time you try to take off. If you have any more questions on the matter, you can refer to the engine or airframe manufacturer maintenance manual for further tips on operating your engine in cold weather.

Read more: when Storm Stella delays delivery of a much-needed part of a grounded jet, the P&WC Mobile Repair Team spring into action


Photo courtesy of Pratt & Whitney Canada and the National Science Foundation.

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