Aircraft engine mounts are weldment structures that fasten an engine to the airframe, while simultaneously holding all the associated power plant parts and accessories in place. They are an integral part of aircraft hardware and are the only fixture that attaches the engine and its accessory parts to an aircraft. As you can imagine, proper inspection of an engine mount is critical to safe operation of an aircraft.
The engine mount is regularly exposed to volatile temperature changes, with temperatures around the engine system reaching upwards of 400 degrees Celsius in every flight cycle. In addition, an engine mount is exposed to corrosive vapors, load bearing stressors, corrosion due to vibration, and chafing along its surface caused by cables and parts touching the engine mount.
In order to ensure the longevity of an engine mount (which is designed to last the lifetime of an aircraft, 20 to 30 years), the FAA has specified minimums for design criteria concerning g loads and flight condition loads. Since the average engine mount weighs 14.5 kg, and carries an engine amounting around to 2.5 tons, adherence to design specifications set by the FAA, and inspection protocols set by original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) is necessary.
Standard inspection of an engine mount involves the following 7 steps— sandblasting, chafing and misalignment, fixture checks, necessary hardware repairs, weld repairs, dye penetrant, and a final sandblast. Sandblasting ensures that all metal defects are visible and cleans the engine mount surface so that any repairs deemed necessary can be conducted with precision. Any carbon or chemical buildup can hide defects in the tubular structure components.
Fixture checks are done preventatively to discover any pits or voids greater than 10% in relation to overall tube density. This inspection will also act as a redundancy to identify weld cracks and defects. Chafing checks on the entirety of the structure are essential to detect corrosion or misalignment from vibration encountered during flight. Hardware repairs and welding repairs are conducted after these preliminary inspections.
A dye penetrant inspection is then applied to any weldment repairs. This redundancy can identify hairline cracks and pinholes that might not be apparent to the human eye otherwise.
The final finishing inspection measure is a second sandblasting. This eliminates excess material and prepares the engine mount for a new coat of paint. Engine mount paint is usually white or a light color to make it easier to spot cracks and corrosion.
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