Corrosion prevention in aviation: Affecting planes of all ages

Aviation is one of the industries with a constant need for corrosion prevention solutions. Manufacturers and maintenance crews working on planes have to deal with complex machinery that can cause untold damage in the event of failure. There will never be any shortage of need for new, high-tech coatings and materials to prevent aerospace corrosion.

Corrosion issues can strike in many ways and on a number of timelines. Sometimes, old aircraft suffer from this kind of degradation after a long time in service. In other situations, fairly new planes can encounter corrosion which demands immediate recourse or correction. In especially worrisome cases, new airplanes can run into corrosion susceptibility issues. The following are examples of corrosion that encompass a variety of scenarios, but all impact the aviation sector.

Restoring aged aircraft
Contributing to the Defense Video Imagery Distribution System, Senior Airman Kaylee Dubois recently described the process of restoring classic military aircraft to sound condition. The effort to preserve these planes, and thus keep history alive and accessible, naturally involves a battle against the progress of corrosion. The current plane being restored, a C-7A Caribou, was used by the Army’s air demonstration team, the Golden Knights. It was also pressed into active service during the Vietnam War.

Dubois explained that the painting step of the restoration is when the corrosion prevention work occurs. First, any existing corrosion is removed, then a new coat of paint is applied with corrosion-inhibiting coatings included. The efforts to get the plane ready for display in its Golden Knights colors will hopefully keep it around for years to come as a display unit at the Army Transportation Museum. Thus, it’s important to implement corrosion prevention features even though the plane isn’t meant to be flown.

Fix for Gulfstream jet engines
Aviation Week recently described an aftermarket attempt to deal with systemic corrosion affecting more recent aircraft. The Gulfstream G2000 passenger jet has been suffering from corrosion affecting the aluminum parts on the inner barrel of its PW305 engine inlets. Responding to this reported corrosion, parts manufacturer Quiet Technology Aerospace recently debuted a graphite engine inlet that it claims will counter the issue with corrosion.

The company noted that this is the second plane it has targeted with its graphite inlet parts. First, it released a similar fix for the Learjet 60. Over the course of a year, it has deployed its system to more than 30 engines. QTA CEO Barry Fine described the problems with corrosion as “ongoing and expensive” and touted his company’s new graphite parts as something that will permanently prevent engines from suffering the same issues that have limited the original aluminum hardware.

Plane components must resist corrosion in all forms.Plane components must resist corrosion in all forms.

Delay to F-35 production
Corrosion on planes that have been in use since the Vietnam War is not surprising. Aluminum issues on modern small jets are more alarming. Perhaps most worrying of all is a potential corrosion risk on jet fighters so new they are only now being delivered to the military. Bloomberg reported that delivery of F-35 strike fighters is on hold for 30 days while the Department of Defense deals with a manufacturing “glitch.”

The source reported that a government investigation found a missed step in the manufacturing of the fighter, which is already the most expensive piece of hardware in U.S. military history. During the manufacturing of the planes, the personnel in the factory did not apply the needed primer to substructure fastener holes. Lacking the primer, the aluminum fasteners could end up corroding, which may have serious safety consequences.

Lockheed Martin and the government worked together on an assessment and corrective program to ensure that the proper coatings are applied to all planes, delivered and under construction. Existing planes will be earmarked to receive the anti-corrosion primer when their panels are removed during the course of normal maintenance. On the factory side, Lockheed Martin stated that it has changed the assembly procedure, so that it will now include the previously missed step.

The number of F-35s that have already been delivered to the military totals about 250, according to Bloomberg. As reported by the news organization, the jets will also be sold to allied nations starting with their upcoming 12th production block. The plans for production call for large numbers of the planes – 2,456 total will be built for U.S. use and 700 will be made for allied governments, according to the current projections by the Pentagon.

Every part is important
There is a pressing need for corrosion prevention affecting components throughout airplanes, from engine parts to fasteners within the bodies of planes and encompassing all the aluminum surfaces between. Solutions targeting old and new craft, protecting aluminum or substituting for it, implemented during production or as aftermarket parts – all of these will be important in the years ahead. Keeping planes safe and secure requires every part to be sound, and corrosion prevention strategies play a clear and pronounced role in these efforts. Getting the right parts that will prevent rust and will be the best for planes is, of course, a number one priority. There are companies that deal with aerospace components machining like Cutter Innovations, who can provide these types of components for planes.