While the chances of a turbocharger failure are not familiar, it can happen. When this happens, there is no way to fly an airplane safely until the situation stabilizes. The aircraft must land immediately in the worst-case scenario to prevent severe injury or death. This can be dangerous for both the pilot and passengers.
Symptoms of a turbocharger failure
A turbocharger problem can cause the plane to lose critical altitude or suffer other performance problems. The symptoms of this type of failure vary from airplane to airplane, and it is essential to determine the root cause. These problems are generally self-diagnosable, but some can be catastrophic. If you notice black smoke coming from your airplane, it may be due to the turbocharger failing. Contacting a mechanic as soon as possible is essential, especially if the aircraft is in flight.
A failing turbocharger can also lead to an induction leak, which limits critical altitude and affects engine efficiency. Another symptom is bootstrapping, or the failure of the engine to reach the actual length. These problems are common with turbocharged airplane engines but can also occur with ordinarily aspirated powerplants.
An airplane’s turbocharger may start bootstrapping when the engine is operating at low RPM. Bootstrapping happens when the wastegate closes entirely, and the turbo is not spinning fast enough to meet desired manifold pressure. An airplane’s maintenance manual describes a detailed procedure for determining whether the turbocharger is bootstrapping. This procedure is called the Turbocharger Operational Flight Check Procedure and will allow the pilot to identify the exact cause of the problem.
A premature turbocharger failure is often the result of oil contamination or foreign object debris. These problems can lead to overheating of the center housing and bearings. Ultimately, the loss of a turbocharger can be catastrophic. Proper maintenance of the turbocharger will help prevent this from happening in your airplane.
While most turbocharger components are reliable, there are instances where they fail. Excess oil may collect in the bearing housing due to a faulty check valve. In these cases, the engine scavenges pump cannot remove extra oil. As a result, the engine may lose power before the pilot can secure the machine. In this situation, the NTSB found that the pilots didn’t receive adequate training and information about the risks and symptoms of a turbocharger failure.
If you notice that your turbocharger is failing at high elevations, you should investigate the causes and symptoms. If you suspect a leak, check the oil lines and the turbine blades with a shop air nozzle. Also, check the air reference line and oil lines for sludge.
Various factors can cause the failure of a turbocharger, but most of them are harmless if handled by the pilot. However, a breach in the exhaust system can result in a fire or an in-flight emergency.
There are two primary causes of various pressure problems in airplanes. The first is a leak. Manifold pressure can drop significantly when the exhaust system is not functioning correctly. When this happens, a pilot can regain manifold pressure by increasing the throttle until travel has been exhausted.
Causes of a turbocharger failure
A turbocharger can have many problems and is difficult to diagnose. It must be operated at the proper temperature and pressure for the engine to function correctly. It is also crucial to check the oil lines. The oil reference line should be inspected for clogging if the turbo is a twin. Also, look for excessive center section play and scraping of the turbine blades.
Some causes of turbocharger failure include oil contamination, foreign object debris, and oil supply problems. In addition, a faulty oil supply can cause excessive oil pressure in the turbo, causing it to overheat and damage the bearings and center housing. When this happens, a turbocharger can’t function properly and needs to be replaced.
There are two types of turbocharger failures: exhaust and induction. A turbocharger failure can result in an airplane’s engine requiring more fuel to maintain an explosive mixture. If this happens, the pilot may have to pull back on the red knob to keep power.
Another cause of turbocharger failure in airplanes is a sticky wastegate. This can cause an endless series of undetected adjustments by the pilot. The continuous movement can cause abnormal MP fluctuations. A sticky wastegate can also lead to an engine with unbalanced air pressure.
Other common causes of turbocharger failure include an obstruction in the air filter or a foreign object entering the turbine. When a turbo is out of balance, it can result in a turbo failure within seconds. In addition to air filter blockage, a dirty air filter is one of the most common causes of turbocharger failure.
When the turbocharger fails, the air pressure in the air filter and the pressure in the intake manifold is reduced, affecting the engine’s performance. The plane’s takeoff, climb, and cruise performance are concerned. In addition to the abovementioned problems, the compressor can develop an induction leak, which limits the engine’s performance.
The wastegate is one of the essential parts of a turbocharger, so it is necessary to check it periodically. If stuck, it can lead to higher-than-expected manifold pressure and dangerous engine overboost. A stuck wastegate also limits the aircraft’s takeoff, climb, and go-around thrust.
If the engine is not achieving rated manifold pressure during takeoff or on the climb, pilots can take measures to fix the problem. First, pilots should check the divider in the turbo wye pipe. Sometimes the wall will break loose and block the exhaust flow to the turbine wheel. If it is sticking, the engine will not reach rated manifold pressure during takeoff, and it could result in a bootstrapping problem.
The turbocharger is also heated by exhaust gas. The turbine inlet temperature can reach as high as 1,6000 degrees Fahrenheit, and a constant flow of engine oil is required to lubricate the bearings. The heat generated by the turbocharger can damage the carburetor.
Symptoms of a turbo-normalized engine failure
Symptoms of a turbo-normalized engine failure in an airplane can be subtle. The pilot may notice a substantial manifold pressure differential in the engine. The engine typically works when cruising at low and middle altitudes, but when the airplane reaches high heights, the machine starts losing power.
Pilots who encounter these symptoms should land on the airplane immediately. They should also closely monitor their aircraft’s temperature and oil pressure indications. The use of turbochargers dramatically improves airplane performance at high altitudes, but turbocharger failure can result in unexpected and uncontrolled changes in manifold pressure.
Induction leaks can be a sign of turbo-normalized engine failure. These leaks can cause the induction system to be blocked, causing the MP to drift abnormally. Additionally, increased cylinder head, exhaust gas, and turbine inlet temperatures are also symptoms of induction leak problems.
A turbo-normalized engine failure in airplanes can result in significant airspeed loss. The aircraft must descend to an altitude that can balance the drag force. This is called the One Engine Inoperative (OEI) ceiling and depends on the aircraft’s weight. Typically, a jetliner’s OEI ceiling is around 20,000 to 25,000 feet. This is because air density at high altitudes is less dense, and engine failure will significantly affect speed more than it would at low altitudes.
The airplane is immediately forced to land when an exhaust breach or leak occurs. An exhaust leak may lead to a fire, mainly caused by hot oil. This type of fire is difficult to extinguish, and a sudden fire can engulf a fuel line and a structural component. An exhaust leak is one of the worst scenarios a turbocharged airplane can face. While turbine failures are rare, they must be treated with great caution.
Most turbocharger failures are self-diagnosable, but there are some rare cases where the turbocharger fails catastrophically. These failures usually result from a condition where the turbine is out of balance. It may also be caused by a foreign object inserted into the turbine wheel or compressor.