Corrosion risk omnipresent in aircraft

The operation and construction of aircraft encompass several pressing corrosion risks – planes may encounter extremely varied levels of moisture and other atmospheric conditions as they traverse long distances and change elevation, and they're made out of components in several different materials that could potentially corrode. Of course, for safety reasons as well as cost management, it's important to fight back against aircraft corrosion wherever it rears its head.

The following are a few recent examples showing the current state of corrosion in the aircraft sector. This is a topic that deserves to be top-of-mind for executives, mechanics, pilots and others working for every kind of company in the aviation industry.

Warning issued for light aircraft
Small planes for civilian aviators bring a unique set of maintenance challenges – while airlines have entire teams of professionals dedicated to keeping their assets safe, individuals have to stay alert to possible dangers on their own. The potential risks include corrosion, with aviation blog Disciples of Flight recently noting that the Federal Aviation Administration has issued a caution bulletin about several models of Luscombe Aircraft, which is susceptible to potential corrosion within the plane's landing gear.

Civilian aviators who own the affected planes can cope with the problem by installing drains in the legs, inspecting the parts often and performing cleaning and sealing procedures. X-rays or ultrasound imaging of the leg axle joint is one of the suggested methods to see whether corrosion problems have developed within the legs of the planes. The root of the problem comes from the shape of the legs, an issue that has led to several failures, according to the source.

Coatings under development
Countering landing gear corrosion is an ongoing effort. As Hartford Business recently pointed out, the Paris Air Show saw the debut of a new and experimental coating primer designed to ensure landing gear go longer without suffering the effects of corrosion. The source pointed out that the material received a 16-month trial, and didn't deteriorate during that stretch. The signature innovation of the new material is a lack of chromate, an oxidation risk. It's designed for use with steel parts in landing gear.

Extravagant cost of problems
Representing a drastic contrast to the problems facing individual plane owners, airlines have teams of trained professionals to deal with mechanical issues affecting their assets – but that doesn't mean they always catch corrosion before it becomes a problem. Research & Development recently explained the consequences of corroded parts in a fleet of jumbo jets: One Japanese airline faced cases of turbine corrosion across its whole contingent of Boeing 787 Dreamliners.

The news source reported that the cost of refurbishing 100 Rolls Royce engines was likely enormous, as the price of a single one of those engines is $20 million. Research & Development noted that companies will likely take more action in the design stages of airplane engines and similar steel-based components in future to detect the potential for corrosion issues – in the end, a much more efficient approach than waiting for problems to appear and dealing with them ad hoc.

From the largest aircraft to the smallest, corrosion resistance is essential.From the largest aircraft to the smallest, corrosion resistance is essential.

New frontiers, same challenges
Even as some elements of aviation change over time, corrosion will remain a relevant topic. For evidence, there's news station WMAZ's coverage of a drone refurbishment project at Robins Air Force Base. The maintenance crew, used to working with heavy cargo aircraft, had to change their approach to bodywork, ensuring they don't harm the unmanned craft's readiness for flight.

That said, painter Tim Davis told the news provider that corrosion control remains part of his workload, even as he adjusts his practices to keep the drone's aerodynamic profile. Around the aviation world, corrosion threatens even the newest and most advanced craft.

Every stakeholder pitches in
To improve corrosion resistance throughout a complicated sector such as aviation, it's clear that focus is required from every level. Manufacturers tasked with creating corrosion-susceptible parts have their role to play, as do the maintenance departments that service the assets and the companies that own them.

To achieve better safety, performance and reliability in every type of plane, from single-person pleasure craft to the jumbo jets that carry passengers around the world, development must continue from the material and coating level on up. The benefits will assuredly be worth the effort, even if change is gradual rather than immediate.