The aircraft exhaust system is a crucial aspect of flight operations, providing the ability to expel spent gases after combustion. Similar to all aircraft parts and assemblies, the exhaust system requires regular maintenance and inspection in order to maintain optimal operations and extend the service lives of parts. Due to the role that the exhaust system plays for the aircraft engine, severe damage and failure can occur very quickly if issues are left unchecked for long periods of time.
During a standard flight operation, the various parts and components of the aircraft exhaust system are under constant stress from extreme heat. Over time, this heat can cause breakdowns and corrosion of components as heat dissipates very quickly after shut off, thus leading to further issues such as cracks and leaking. With the immense heat that normally occurs in exhaust systems, clamps, slip joints, exhaust flange parts, and more may begin to deteriorate. Furthermore, improper expulsion of exhaust gas can create a danger for pilots and passengers, as carbon monoxide build up could occur. With such potential hazards coming about from poor maintenance, regular inspections and preflight checks should always be conducted.
When conducting inspections for an aircraft exhaust system, there are various key components that should be looked over. When inspecting mufflers and heat deflectors, signs of overheating may be found in the form of protrusions or creases on the surface of the component. To properly locate any potential issues, mufflers and heat deflectors should be fully removed from the system and carefully examined with equipment. By using a tool such as an awl, the thickness of muffler sidewalls may be inspected to check for any signs of deterioration.
As exhaust gas leaks are highly dangerous for the operation of the aircraft and those within it, visual inspections should always be conducted. By checking for areas where residue is collecting or where there are stains, a leak may be identified. Nevertheless, leaking will not always leave behind a visual trace for the inspector to see, and thus methods such as using vacuums or soapy water can assist. When checking nearby areas such as where gaskets are located, varying gauges may be used to inspect for leaks. As the leaking of gas can prove detrimental to the health of the exhaust flange and exhaust cylinder, such components should be carefully inspected for any signs of pitting. If damage has occurred, resurfacing may be used to repair the components as possible.
Generally, there are a number of tips and tricks that may be followed when maintaining the exhaust system of any aircraft. For one, overhauls and major inspections can be conducted much easier if the assembly is taken apart. Then, each piece can be visually looked over for leaks and cracks, and all damaged parts and fasteners can be replaced as needed. If you have to utilize marking tools, avoid graphite as it can damage components further. When operating the aircraft in general, it can be also useful to keep the engine very cool during takeoffs and hotter during landing procedures, as it will help extend the service life of the assembly as a whole.
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