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Turbine Corrosion to Blame for 2016 Jet Incident

Thursday, March 8, 2018

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A 2016 incident that grounded a passenger jet in India has been blamed on the corrosion of an power turbine blade in the plane’s engine, according to a newly released investigation report.

India’s Aircraft Accident Investigation Board released the new report, detailing what it calls a “serious incident” involving Jet Airways Flight 9W 2839 on June 15, 2016. The 2008-built ATR 72-500 craft, known as VT-JCL, was en route from Bangalore to Mangalore when an engine fire and smoke in the cabin caused the crew to turn back to the Bangalore airport for an emergency landing. Three passengers reportedly suffered injuries.

Jet Airways jet
Laurent ERRERA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

A turbine blade failure caused by corrosion led to smoke in the cabin of a Jet Airways ATR 72-500 plane similar to this one.

The investigation zeroed in on the airplane’s right engine, a Pratt & Whitney PW127M, which experienced a blade failure, leading to an oil leak that eventually resulted in smoke that entered the cabin. The blade failure, according to the report, was likely due to a layer of corrosion detected near the fatigue origin region of the blade.

Sulfidation Cited

The report indicates that sulfidation corrosion, which occurs at high temperatures, may have contributed to the cracking. Sulfidation would likely have been brought about by the sulfur in jet fuel, and can also be caused by sulfur in salts and air pollution.

Sulfidation, according to the report, cannot be completely avoided, but “is generally contained by desalination/desulfidation wash and regular monitoring to detect and replace affected components.” The process can be exacerbated by the presence of the element niobium in the alloy the part is constructed of. Two of three blade failures on planes owned by Mumbai-based Jet Airways, including VT-JCL, involved niobium-rich parts, according to the report.

Second-stage Power Turbine blades like the one affected on the VT-JCL were subject to a 2015 service bulleting calling for their replacement with blades coating with chromium, but the replacement was not required until the supply of non-chromium-coated blades was exhausted, the report says. Chromium coatings would slow sulfidation corrosion.

The AAIB recommends the airline perform routine eddy current inspection on its fleet to detect possible corrosion, and look into replacing the niobium-rich Power Turbine blades with chromium-coated blades. While the report recommends closer inspection, it does not accuse the airline of any wrongdoing or negligence in relation to the incident.


Tagged categories: Aerospace; Corrosion

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