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August 03, 2020

An aircraft's exhaust system performs many vital functions, including enhancing the performance of the engine and contributing towards the overall smooth and efficient operations of the plane.

Aircraft exhaust systems are critical to flight safety, and if a failure occurs, it can result in dangerous consequences. A failed exhaust system is a significant fire hazard and can cause a partial or complete loss of engine power. It can also cause several serious accidents such as carbon monoxide poisoning and engine backfire.

These life-threatening mishaps, however, can easily be avoided if the maintenance team and the pilots become much more aware of the warning signs of the engine deterioration.

Potential Exhaust System Problems

Aircraft exhaust systems are regularly exposed to high temperatures ranging up to 1000 degrees Celsius. These high temperatures, coupled with highly corrosive environments, can significantly affect the performance and condition of exhaust systems, causing them to fail frequently.

Some of these exhaust system failures include;

  • Escape of the exhaust gas into the cabin, through a cabin heating system, due to leakage or material damage in components of mufflers and heat exchangers.
  • Partial or complete loss of engine power caused by loose baffles, cones, or diffusers in the mufflers or heat exchangers that block the gas outlet flow. This occurs periodically, especially if the parts are unfixed within the muffler and move around only during the subsequent flights.
  • Structural failure or torching of the surrounding area where the exhaust components exist or are breached. Structural failure is of particular concern in aircraft that have engines which operate at higher exhaust gas temperature and pressure.

Regular Inspections To Avoid Potential Problems

To avoid these problems and failures from occurring Transport Canada Civil Aviation (TCCA) mandates that all inspections and maintenance of aircraft exhaust systems be done following the recommendations of their manufacturers. They also advise increasing the inspection intervals to include a thorough review of exhaust systems inside out. These intervals should consist of annual, progressive, and 100-hour inspections, along with pre-flight checks by the owner or the pilot. Furthermore, regular inspections should be more than merely taking a look at the outside of the system. Hire a professional aircraft technician to do the job carefully.

To allow full inspection, be sure to remove all shrouds and shields from the muffler and stacks.

Warning Signs of Potential Exhaust System Problems

Below are some of the signs TCCA has set to identify potential exhaust system problems. These signs can be identified during routine inspections.

1. Signs of Exhaust System Leakage:

Signs of exhaust system leakage include flat gray, black, or light gray powder or a murky/smoky appearance. These telltale signs are visible on surfaces adjacent to exhaust system components like welds, clamps, external joints, flex-joints, and flanges. The surfaces reflect leakage points.

2. Signs of Structural Deterioration:

Signs of exhaust system deterioration are evident on the components and their external surfaces and include deformation, thinning, collapse, cracks, dents, scaling, weld separation, corrosion, and discoloration. Make sure cables, and other parts of the exhaust system are not chafing subsequent parts.

3. Signs of Misaligned Components:

Cracking on exhaust systems occurs typically due to misaligned stacks from a previously bad repair or deformation of the system from some other means. Signs of misaligned stacks include abnormal wear or bent, broken, loose, or missing parts, clamps, or seals. These signs also appear in case of improper installations and loose connections.

About Acorn Welding

Acorn Welding is an expert aircraft maintenance service provider based in Edmonton, Canada. With our expertise in repairing single, twin, turbocharged, radial, and turbine aircraft exhaust systems, we'll have you back in the air in no time. Visit our website to explore our specialized aircraft products and services or contact us for personalized service.