Protecting Your Engine Against Sulfidation

By P&WC CUSTOMER SERVICE
Feb. 18, 2017 | | 2 min read

Sulfidation can do serious damage to engines; however, there are actions you can take to minimize it. Here’s a quick overview of what it is and what you can do.

UNDERSTANDING AIRCRAFT ENGINE SULFIDATION

Engine sulfidation is a chemical reaction that occurs at high temperature ranges. Sulfur contained in your aircraft’s fuel combines with salt and other airborne contaminants in the intake air to create a corrosive mixture that attacks metal components.

Unless you take the proper maintenance actions, sulfidation could lead to major engine damage. For instance, it can attack and erode the protective surface coating of turbine blades, gradually forming blister scales and undermining their mechanical integrity.

Nothing can be done to completely eliminate engine sulfidation—whenever jet fuel and air interact in  the hot section of an aircraft engine, this process will occur to some extent. You can, however, mitigate its effects.

HOW TO FLIGHT ENGINE SULFIDATION

As mentioned above, salt and other contaminants in the air are major contributors to sulfidation. Your engine could be exposed to these from many sources, like seawater and airborne pollution.

Keep your engine as clean as possible by performing regular desalination washes with clean water. If you’re flying in an environment where there’s a lot of salt in the air, such as offshore oil rig-related missions, you may need to perform desalination washes every day.

When in doubt, your best bet is to err on the side of caution and wash often. Washing won’t harm your engine when done properly (as dictated by the applicable engine maintenance manual). Flush out corrosive elements like salt and air pollutants so they don’t stay inside your engine any longer than necessary. That way, you’ll slow down the engine sulfidation process’s harmful effects and prolong your engine’s life.

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