Removing an aircraft engine is a labor-intensive task that demands both technical proficiency and attention to detail to carry out. When an engine must be removed for overhaul or replacement, it is critical for maintenance personnel to follow the instructions set forth by the manufacturer or governing institution. In this blog, we will review a non-exhaustive list of the considerations involved in engine removal, while also discussing the rationale behind removing a motor in general.
Several circumstances necessitate engine removal instead of a static repair. Namely, a sudden stoppage or reduction in engine speed should warrant engine removal and examination at the earliest time possible. This is because both events point to internal structural damage that cannot be readily assessed through regular inspection. Another indication for engine removal is metal particulate found in the oil. These materials, which are commonly associated with structural damage, may be identified using a testing magnet.
Once the decision has been made to initiate the removal process, the first step should always involve a pre-removal inspection. This visual inspection should include both the engine and surrounding structures, with the purpose of identifying any obvious defects that may hinder the removal process. Once all pre-removal issues have been addressed, it is then necessary to disconnect wiring, harnesses, and hoses associated with the electrical and fuel systems. It is critical to follow all safety precautions when disengaging each system, and the engine itself should be grounded to prevent potential discharge. To ensure accountability of all components, each member should be labeled or set aside in a pre-designated area.
Once all associated subsystems have been removed, the next step is to drain the engine of all oil. This fluid should be collected in a clean container which is unlikely to spill. After opening the drain valve, the oil should flow quickly into the container, but it is necessary to inspect other valves and lines to ensure they are empty as well. Although engine oil has a flash point above 150 °C, making it non-flammable, it is still important to maintain a full and readily accessible fire extinguisher during the entire process.
Now that the engine has been liberated of all connections and fluids, the external components can now be removed to enable lifting. Depending on the aircraft design, this may include cowlings, nacelles, and an exhaust housing. Although these elements are typically designed to be easily detached, it is still necessary to practice caution so as to not damage the engine or its housing. The engine should now be carefully removed using a crane, harness, or other lifting device depending on its size and weight. Although it is optimal to complete this entire procedure in the same location where maintenance is planned to occur, it is also possible to transport the engine safely on a dedicated vehicle. Once all inspection and maintenance is complete, personnel can now replace the engine by reversing the steps listed above. Although this approach can be completed by trained maintenance crews efficiently, it is critical to not rush any steps in order to ensure safety.
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