4 MUST-HAVES FOR HELICOPTER ENGINE LINE MAINTENANCE
From real-time analysis technology to prevention, P&WC helicopter engine support expert Raymond Arseneau discusses four essentials for your helicopter line maintenance toolkit.
1. GROUND-BASED SOFTWARE KIT
Most helicopters today are equipped with electronic engine controls (EEC) or full authority digital engine controls (FADEC). For these rotorcraft, a ground-based software (GBS) kit is invaluable, according to Raymond Arseneau, a Senior Field Support Representative for P&WC’s global service network.
“By connecting cables into a dedicated helicopter port, downloading raw data from the engine, then reading it on a laptop, you can gain insights about your engine’s condition in real time,” Raymond told Airtime. Based in Italy, Raymond speaks from four decades of front-line experience assisting helicopter operators around the world on their flying missions.
He said that sometimes, for example, a fault is reported but doesn’t remain annunciated; the GBS readings can help identify a dormant fault. He points to owners of PW210 engines, in particular, as operators can benefit from owning a kit, since they need to perform a data collection unit (DCU) download on their engine every 50 hours.
2. FAST™ ENGINE HEALTH MANAGEMENT
Raymond is a keen advocate of cutting-edge diagnostic and prognostic technology such as the FAST solution (presently offered on the AW139). It captures full-flight helicopter data on all engine parameters in real-time and transmits it wirelessly after the pilot shuts down the engine for analysis.
With FAST, we capture key full-flight data from both the engine and aircraft—and having more data is advantageous for everyone from a predictive and preventive maintenance standpoint, from the aircraft OEM to the operator. We can proactively troubleshoot potential events – to minimize or avoid them entirely and look at trends to help the operator make proactive adjustments.
FAST is a powerful system if you’re stuck on the top of an oil rig or hospital landing pad and need to get your helicopter back in the air fast, Raymond explains. “In the past, if a customer requested customer support, the team would bring the kitchen sink with them. With the new technology, you know what’s happening without seeing the engine, so you just bring the parts you need. It’s much more effective from a cost and service perspective.”
3. FUEL NOZZLE AND SEAL REPLACEMENT TOOLING
Whenever you change a fuel nozzle, you need to check that it’s installed properly and there are no leaks. Make sure to use fuel nozzle tooling, for the PW210, to apply pressure to the fuel system and verify that the pressure is constant using a measuring device, Raymond said. “You should also have tools in your standard line maintenance kit for basic tasks like replacing carbon or magnetic seals," he said. "If you spot a leaking seal, you’ll want to take care of it as soon as possible. “
4. COMPRESSOR WASH KIT
For helicopters that fly in salt-laden environments or in areas of heavy industry with high concentrations of sulfuric acid in the air, regular compressor washes are a must to prevent corrosion. For that, you’ll need a compressor wash kit.
“If you’re flying in a salty environment, a daily desalination wash is the way to go. If you operate near the sea, even if you’re not flying directly over it, you always need to be aware when you are flying in a saline environment,” Raymond advises. “You’d be surprised at how much gets into a helicopter engine. Adding engine inlet protection in the form of a particle separator or inlet barrier filter is the best insurance you can provide for your engines operating in various atmospheric conditions.”
If your engine’s temperature margins start to decrease noticeably—for example, by 10 degrees—one of the first things you should do is check the condition of your compressor. If it’s dirty, use your compressor wash kit to do a performance recovery wash with a soap-and-water solution.
Regular washing will help maintain the engine’s performance levels and keep your costs down by delaying a premature engine removal, Raymond recommends.
In high-utilization segments, helicopters may need up totwo to three hours of maintenance for every hour of flying time. You can lessen the work by investing in the right tools and technologies.
Looking for more practical helicopter maintenance tips? Check out our piece on Protecting Your Turboshaft Engine from Particles.