airplane turboprop engines basic familiarization

Many of today's airplanes are powered by turboprop engines. These engines are
quite reliable, providing years of trouble-free service. However, because of the
rarity of turboprop engine malfunctions, and the limitations of simulating those
malfunctions, many flight crews have felt unprepared to diagnose engine
malfunctions that have occurred.
The purpose of this text is to provide straightforward material to give flight crews
the basics of airplane engine operational theory. This text will also provide
pertinent information about malfunctions that may be encountered during the
operation of turboprop-powered airplanes.
It is not the purpose of this text to supersede or replace more detailed
instructional texts or to suggest limiting the flight crew's understanding and
working knowledge of airplane turbine engine operation and malfunctions to the
topics and depth covered here. Upon completing this material, flight crews
should understand that some engine malfunctions can feel and sound more
severe than anything they have ever experienced; however, the airplane is still
flyable, and the first priority of the flight crew should remain "fly the airplane."
Figure 1 showing balloon with no escape path for the air inside. All forces are balanced.
Propulsion is the net force that results from unequal pressures. Gas (air) under
pressure in a sealed container exerts equal pressure on all surfaces of the
container; therefore, all the forces are balanced and there are no forces to make
the container move.
If there is a hole in the container, gas (air) cannot push against that hole and the
gas escapes. While the air is escaping and there is still pressure inside the
container, the side of the container opposite the hole has pressure against it.
Therefore, the net pressures are not balanced and there is a net force available
to move the container. This force is called thrust.
The simplest example of the propulsion principle is an inflated balloon (container)
where the stem is not closed off. The pressure of the air inside the balloon
exerts forces everywhere inside the balloon. For every force, there is an
opposite force, on the other side of the balloon, except on the surface of the
balloon opposite the stem. This surface has no opposing force since air is
escaping out the stem. This results in a net force that propels the balloon away
from the stem. The balloon is propelled by the air pushing on the FRONT of the
Figure 2 showing balloon with released stem. Arrow showing forward force has no opposing arrow.
The simplest propulsion engine
The simplest propulsion engine would be a container of air (gas) under pressure
that is open at one end. A diving SCUBA tank would be such an engine if it fell
and the valve was knocked off the top. The practical problem with such an
engine is that, as the air escapes out the open end, the pressure inside the
container would rapidly drop. This engine would deliver propulsion for only a
limited time.
The turbine engine
A turbine engine is a container with a hole in the back end (tailpipe or nozzle) to
let air inside the container escape and, thus, provide propulsion. Inside the
container is turbomachinery to keep the container full of air under constant
pressure. A turboprop engine extracts energy from the escaping air to drive a
Figure 3 showing our balloon with machinery in front to keep it full as air escapes out the back for
continuous thrust.
The turbomachinery in the engine uses energy stored chemically as fuel. The
basic principle of the airplane turbine engine is identical to any and all engines
that extract energy from chemical fuel. The basic 4 steps for any internal
combustion engine are:
1. Intake of air (and possibly fuel).
2. Compression of the air (and possibly fuel).
3. Combustion, where fuel is injected (if it was not drawn in with the intake
air) and burned to convert the stored energy.
4. Expansion and exhaust, where the converted energy is put to use.
These principles are exactly the same ones used to make a lawn mower or
automobile engine run.
In the case of a piston engine, such as the engine in a car or lawn mower, the
intake, compression, combustion, and exhaust steps occur in the same place
(the cylinder head) at different times as the piston goes up and down.
In the turbine engine, however, these same four steps occur at the same time but
in different places. As a result of this fundamental difference, the turbine has
engine sections called:
The inlet section
The compressor section
The combustion section
The exhaust section.
The practical axial flow turbine engine
The turbine engine in an airplane has the various sections stacked in a line from
front to back. As a result, the engine body presents less drag to the airplane as it
is flying. The air enters the front of the engine and passes essentially straight
through from front to back. On its way to the back, the air is compressed by the
compressor section. Fuel is added and burned in the combustion section, then
the air is exhausted through the exit nozzle.
The laws of nature will not let us get something for nothing. The compressor
needs to be driven by something in order to work. Just after the burner and
before the exhaust nozzle, there is a turbine that uses some of the energy in the
discharging air to drive the compressor and – most importantly for propulsion –
the propeller. There is a long shaft connecting the turbine to the compressor
ahead of it, and the propeller at the front.
Compressor combustor turbine nozzle
Figure 4 showing the basic layout of a turboprop propulsion system.
Machinery details
From an outsider's view, the flight crew and passengers rarely see the actual
engine. What is seen is a large elliptically-shaped pod hanging from the wing or
attached to the airplane fuselage toward the back of the airplane. This pod
structure is called the nacelle or cowling. The engine is inside this nacelle.
The propeller is outside the front end of the nacelle, and the air passes through
the propeller first. Most of the air is driven back by the propeller outside the
engine nacelle; it never encounters the rest of the engine. The air near the
propeller hub flows back to encounter the inlet cowl. The purpose of the inlet
cowl is to direct the incoming air evenly across the inlet of the engine. The shape
of the interior of the inlet cowl is very carefully designed to guide this air.
The first component that air encounters on its way through an airplane turbine
engine is the compressor. The compressor of an airplane turbine engine has
quite a job to do. The compressor has to take in an enormous volume of air and
compress it to 1/10th or 1/15th of the volume it had outside the engine. This
volume of air must be supplied continuously, not in pulses or periodic bursts.
The compression of this volume of air is accomplished by a rotating disk
containing many airfoils, called blades, set at an angle to the disk rim. Each
blade is close to the shape of a miniature propeller blade, and the angle at which
it is set on the disk rim is called the angle of attack. This angle of attack is similar
to the pitch of a propeller blade or an airplane wing in flight. As the disk with
blades is forced to rotate by the turbine, each blade accelerates the air, pumping
the air behind it. The effect is similar to a household window fan. After the air
passes through the blades on a disk, the air will be accelerated rearward and
also forced circumferentially around in the direction of the rotating disk. Any
tendency for the air to go around in circles is counterproductive, so this tendency
is corrected by putting another row of airfoils behind the rotating disk. This row is
stationary and its airfoils are at an opposing angle.
Figure 5 showing compressor rotor disk.
What has just been described is a single stage of compression. Each stage
consists of a rotating disk with many blades on the rim, called a rotor stage, and,
behind it, another row of airfoils that is not rotating, called a stator. Air on the
backside of this rotor/stator pair is accelerated rearward, and any tendency for
the air to go around circumferentially is corrected.
A single stage of compression can achieve perhaps 1.5:1 or 2.5:1 decrease in
the air's volume. Compression of the air increases the energy that can be
extracted from the air during combustion and exhaust (which provides the thrust).
In order to achieve the 10:1 to 15:1 total compression needed for the engine to
develop adequate power, the engine is built with many stages of compressors
stacked in a line. Depending upon the engine design, there may be as many as
10 to 15 stages in the total compressor.
As the air is compressed through the compressor, the air increases in velocity,
temperature, and pressure. Air does not behave the same at elevated
temperatures, pressures, and velocities as it does in the front of the engine
before it is compressed. In particular, this means that the speed that the
compressor rotors must have at the back of the compressor is different than at
the front of the compressor. If we had only a few stages, this difference could be
ignored; but, for 10 to 15 compressor stages, it would not be efficient to have all
the stages rotate at the same speed.
Figure 6 showing 9 stages of an axial compressor rotor assembly.
The most common solution to this problem is to break the compressor in two.
This way, the front 4 or 5 stages can rotate at one speed, while the rear 6 or 7
stages can rotate at a different, higher, speed. To accomplish this, we also need
two separate turbines and two separate shafts.
Most of today's turbine engines are dual-rotor engines, meaning there are two
distinct sets of rotating components. The rear compressor, or high-pressure
compressor, is connected by a hollow shaft to a high-pressure turbine. This is
the high rotor, sometimes called the gas generator. The rotors are sometimes
called spools, such as the "high spool." In this text, we will use the term rotor.
The high rotor is often referred to as NG for short. (There is additional material in
this package that describes single-shaft engine design.)
Moving from front to rear, the rotating assemblies are: the low-pressure
compressor, the high pressure compressor, and high pressure turbine (gas
generator), the low pressure turbine (power turbine) driving the low pressure
compressor by a long shaft down the engine centerline (and the propeller via a
reduction gearbox). The low-pressure rotor is called NP for short.
The NG and NP rotors are not connected mechanically in any way. There is no
gearing between them. As the air flows through the engine, each rotor is free to
operate at its own efficient speed. These speeds are all quite precise and are
carefully calculated by the engineers who designed the engine. The speed in
RPM of each rotor is often displayed on the engine flight deck and identified by
gages or readouts labeled NP RPM and NG RPM. Both rotors have their own
redline limits.
In some engine designs, the NP and NG rotors may rotate in opposite directions,
or there may be three rotors instead of two, or part of the compressor may be a
centrifugal compressor rather than an axial compressor. Whether or not these
conditions exist in any particular engine are engineering decisions and are of no
consequence to the pilot.
The turboprop engine
A turboprop engine is simply a turbine engine where a propeller is attached to the
low-pressure rotor at the front, via a gearbox. The air that passes through the
propeller near its inner diameter also passes through the compressor stages in
the core of the engine and is further compressed and processed through the
engine cycle. The air that passes through the outer diameter of the propeller
does not pass through the core of the engine, but instead passes along the
outside of the nacelle. The large volume of air pushed backward by the propeller
provides airplane thrust in the same way as the smaller, high velocity air from the
nozzle of a classic jet engine.
To provide effective understanding of and preparation for the correct responses
to engine in-flight malfunctions, this section will describe turboprop engine
malfunctions and their consequences in a manner that is generally applicable to
turboprop-powered airplanes. These descriptions, however, do not supersede or
replace the specific instructions that are provided in the Airplane Flight Manual
and appropriate checklists.
Compressor surge
In modern turboprop engines, compressor surge is a rare event. A surge from a
turboprop engine is the result of instability of the engine's operating cycle.
Compressor surge may be caused by engine deterioration, it may be the result of
ingestion of birds or ice, or it may be the final symptom from a “severe engine
damage” type of failure. The operating cycle of the turbine engine consists of
intake, compression, combustion, and exhaust, which occur simultaneously in
different places in the engine. The part of the cycle susceptible to instability is
the compression phase. In a turbine engine, compression is accomplished
aerodynamically as the air passes through the stages of the compressor, rather
than by confinement, as is the case in a piston engine. The air flowing over the
compressor airfoils can stall just as the air over the wing of an airplane can.
When this airfoil stall occurs, the passage of air through the compressor
becomes unstable and the compressor can no longer compress the incoming air.
The high-pressure air behind the stall further back in the engine escapes forward
through the compressor and out the inlet.
This escape is sudden, rapid and often quite audible as a bang. Engine surge
can be accompanied by a visible flash forward out the inlet and rearward out the
tailpipe. Instruments may show high ITT and EPR or rotor speed changes; but,
in many stalls, the event is over so quickly that the instruments do not have time
to respond.
Once the air from within the engine escapes, the reason(s) for the instability may
self-correct and the compression process may re-establish itself. A single surge
and recovery will occur quite rapidly, usually within fractions of a second.
Depending on the reason for the compressor instability, an engine might
A single self-recovering surge
Multiple surges prior to self-recovery
Multiple surges requiring pilot action in order to recover
A non-recoverable surge.
For complete, detailed procedures, flight crews must follow the appropriate
checklists and emergency procedures detailed in their specific Airplane Flight
Manual. In general, however, during a single self-recovering surge, the cockpit
engine indications may fluctuate slightly and briefly. The flight crew may not
notice the fluctuation, unless autofeather engages or an ignition light comes on.
If the surge self-recovers, no crew action is necessary.
Alternatively, the engine may surge two or three times before full self-recovery.
When this happens, there are likely to be cockpit engine instrumentation shifts of
sufficient magnitude and duration to be noticed by the flight crew.
If the engine does not recover automatically from the surge, it may surge
continually until the flight crew takes action to stop the process. The desired
action is to retard the power lever until the engine recovers. The pilot should
then SLOWLY re-advance the power lever. Occasionally, an engine may surge
only once but still not self-recover.
When a compressor surge is not recoverable, there will be a single bang and the
engine will decelerate to zero power as if the fuel had been chopped. This type
of compressor surge can accompany a severe engine damage malfunction; it
can also occur without any engine damage at all.
The actual cause for the compressor surge is often complex and may or may not
result from severe engine damage. Rarely does a single compressor surge
CAUSE severe engine damage, but sustained surging will eventually over-heat
the turbine, as too much fuel is being provided for the volume of air that is
reaching the combustor. Compressor blades may also be damaged and fail as a
result of repeated violent surges; this will rapidly result in an engine that cannot
run at any power setting.
A flameout is a condition where the combustion process within the burner has
stopped. A flameout will be accompanied by a drop in ITT, in torque, in engine
core speed and in engine pressure ratio. The first symptom noticed by the pilot
may be a yaw as the propeller becomes a source of drag, or autofeather of the
propeller accompanied by a drop in propeller RPM. The engine ignition light may
come on.
The flameout may result from the engine running out of fuel, severe inclement
weather, a volcanic ash encounter, a control system malfunction, or unstable
engine operation (such as a compressor stall). Momentary flameout may be
perceived as a short-term power fluctuation accompanied by an ignition light. No
pilot action is necessary provided the engine recovers within a few seconds.
A flameout at takeoff power is unusual – only about 10% of flameouts occur at
takeoff power.
“Engine fire” almost always refers to a fire outside the engine but within the
nacelle. A fire in the vicinity of the engine should be annunciated to the flight
crew by a firewarning in the flight deck. It is unlikely that the flight crew will see,
hear, or immediately smell an engine fire. Sometimes, flight crews are advised of
a fire by communication with the control tower.
It is important to know that, given a fire in the nacelle, there is adequate time to
make the first priority "fly the airplane" before attending to the fire. It has been
shown that, even in incidences of fire indication immediately after takeoff, there is
adequate time to continue climb to a safe altitude before attending to the engine.
There may be economic damage to the nacelle, but the first priority of the flight
crew should be to ensure the airplane continues in safe flight.
Flight crews should regard any firewarning as a fire, even if the indication goes
away when the power lever is retarded to idle. The indication might be the result
of pneumatic leaks of hot air into the nacelle. The fire indication could also be
from a fire that is small or sheltered from the detector so that the fire is not
apparent at low power. Fire indications may also result from faulty detection
systems. Some fire detectors allow identification of a false indication (testing the
fire loops), which may avoid the need for an IFSD. There have been times when
the control tower has mistakenly reported the flames associated with a
compressor surge as an engine "fire."
In the event of a firewarning annunciation, the flight crew must refer to the
checklists and procedures specific to the airplane being flown. In general, once
the decision is made that a fire exists and the aircraft is stabilized, engine
shutdown should be immediately accomplished by feathering the propeller and
shutting off fuel to the engine, both at the engine fuel control shutoff and the
wing/pylon spar valve. All bleed air, electrical, and hydraulics from the affected
engine will be disconnected or isolated from the airplane systems to prevent any
fire from spreading to or contaminating associated airplane systems. This is
accomplished by one common engine "fire handle." The fire handle controls the
fire by greatly reducing the fuel available for combustion, by reducing the
availability of pressurized air to any sump fire, by temporarily denying air to the
fire through the discharge of fire extinguishant, and by removing sources of reignition, such as live electrical wiring and hot casings. It should be noted that
some of these control measures may be less effective if the fire is the result of
severe damage – the fire may take slightly longer to extinguish under these
circumstances. In the event of a shutdown after an in-flight engine fire, there
should be no attempt to restart the engine unless it is critical for continued safe
flight, as the fire is likely to re-ignite once the engine is restarted.
Tailpipe fire
One of the most alarming events for passengers, flight attendants, ground
personnel and even air traffic control (ATC) to witness is a tailpipe fire. Fuel may
puddle in the turbine casings and exhaust during start-up or shutdown, and then
ignite. This can result in a highly-visible jet of flame out the back of the engine.
Passengers have initiated emergency evacuations in these instances, leading to
serious injuries.
Some airplanes have overtemperature detectors installed around the tailpipe;
others may give no indication of an anomaly to the flight crew until the cabin crew
or control tower draws attention to the problem. They are likely to describe it as
an “engine fire,” but a tailpipe fire will NOT result in an engine firewarning on the
flight deck. There may be a warning such as “TAIL P HOT.”
If notified of an engine fire without any fire indications in the cockpit, the flight
crew should accomplish the tailpipe fire procedure. It will include motoring the
engine to help extinguish the flames, while most other engine abnormal
procedures will not. The normal engine fire procedure is not effective in
controlling a tailpipe fire.
Since the fire is burning within the turbine casing and exhaust nozzle, pulling the
fire handle to discharge extinguishant to the space between casings and cowls
will be ineffective. Pulling the fire handle may also make it impossible to dry
motor the engine, which is the quickest way of extinguishing most tailpipe fires.
Birdstrike/Foreign Object Damage (FOD)
Airplane engines encounter birds most often in the vicinity of airports, either
during takeoff or during landing. Encounters with birds occur during both daytime
and nighttime flights. By far, most bird encounters do not affect the safe outcome
of a flight. In more than half of the bird ingestions into engines, the flight crew is
not even aware that the ingestion took place. When a large bird is involved, the
flight crew may notice a thud, bang or vibration. If the bird enters the engine
core, there may be a smell of burnt flesh in the flight deck or passenger cabin
from the bleed air.
Birdstrikes can damage an engine or propeller. Foreign Object Damage (FOD)
from other sources, such as tire fragments, runway debris or animals, may also
be encountered, with similar results.
Bird ingestion can also result in an engine surge. The surge may have any of the
characteristics listed in the surge section.
Severe engine damage
Severe engine damage may be difficult to define. From the viewpoint of the flight
crew, severe engine damage is mechanical damage to the engine that looks "bad
and ugly." To the manufacturers of the engine and the airplane, severe engine
damage may involve symptoms as obvious as large holes in the engine cases
and nacelle or as subtle as the non-response of the engine to power lever
movement. It is important for flight crews to know that severe engine damage
may be accompanied by symptoms such as firewarning (from leaked hot air) or
engine surge because the compressor stages that hold back the pressure may
not be intact or in working order due to the engine damage. In this case, the
symptoms of severe engine damage will be the same as a surge without
recovery. There will be a loud noise. EPR will drop quickly; torque, NP, NG and
fuel flow will drop. (If the propeller is governing, propeller RPM may not change.)
ITT may rise momentarily. There will be a loss of power to the airplane as a
result of the severe engine damage. It is not important to initially distinguish
between a non-recoverable surge with or without severe engine damage, or
between a fire and a firewarning with severe engine damage. The priority of the
flight crew still remains "fly the airplane." Once the airplane is stabilized, the
flight crew can diagnose the situation.
Engine seizure
Engine seizure describes a situation where the engine rotors stop turning in
flight, perhaps very suddenly. The static and rotating parts lock up against each
other, bringing the rotor to a halt. In practice, this is only likely to occur at low
rotor RPM after an engine shutdown.
Seizure cannot occur without very severe engine damage, to the point where the
vanes and blades of the compressor and turbine are mostly destroyed. This is
not an instantaneous process – there is a great deal of inertia in the turning rotor
compared to the energy needed to break interlocking rotating and static
Once the airplane has landed, and the rotor is no longer being driven by ram air,
seizure is frequently observed after severe damage.
Symptoms of engine seizure in flight may include vibration, zero rotor speed, mild
airplane yaw, and, possibly, unusual noises.
Engine separation
Engine separation is an extremely rare event. It will be accompanied by loss of
all primary and secondary parameters for the affected engine, noises, and
airplane yaw (especially at high power settings). Separation is most likely to
occur during takeoff/climb-out or the landing roll. Airplane handling may be
affected. It is important to use the fire handle to close the spar valve and prevent
a massive overboard fuel leak; refer to the airplane flight or operations manual
for specific procedures.
Fuel system problems
Fuel leaks
Major leaks in the fuel system are a concern to the flight crew because they may
result in engine fire, or, eventually, in fuel exhaustion. A very large leak can
produce engine flameout.
Engine instruments will only indicate a leak if it is downstream of the fuel
flowmeter. A leak between the tanks and the fuel flowmeter can only be
recognized by comparing fuel usage between engines, by comparing actual
usage to planned usage, or by visual inspection for fuel flowing out of the pylon
or cowlings. Eventually, the leak may result in tank imbalance.
In the event of a major leak, the crew should consider whether the leak needs to
be isolated to prevent fuel exhaustion.
It should be noted that the likelihood of fire resulting from such a leak is greater
at low altitude or when the airplane is stationary; even if no fire is observed in
flight, it is advisable for emergency services to be available upon landing.
Inability to shutdown engine
If the engine fuel shut-off valve malfunctions, it may not be possible to shut the
engine down by the normal procedure, since the engine continues to run after the
fuel switch is moved to the cutoff position. Closing the spar valve by pulling the
fire handle will ensure that the engine shuts down as soon as it has used up the
fuel in the line from the spar valve to the fuel pump inlet. This may take a couple
of minutes.
Fuel filter clogging
Fuel filter clogging can result from the failure of one of the fuel tank boost pumps
(the pump generates debris which is swept downstream to the fuel filter), from
severe contamination of the fuel tanks during maintenance (scraps of rag,
sealant, etc., that are swept downstream to the fuel filter), or, more seriously,
from gross contamination of the fuel. Fuel filter clogging will usually be seen at
high-power settings, when the fuel flow through the filter (and the sensed
pressure drop across the filter) is greatest. If multiple fuel-filter bypass
indications are seen, the fuel may be heavily contaminated with water, rust,
algae, etc. Once the filters bypass, and the contaminant goes straight into the
engine fuel system, the engine fuel control may no longer operate as intended.
There is potential for multiple-engine flameout. The Airplane Flight or Operating
Manual provides the necessary guidance.
Oil system problems
The engine oil system has a relatively large number of indicated parameters
required by the regulations (pressure, temperature, quantity, filter clogging).
Many of the sensors used are subject to giving false indications, especially on
earlier engine models. Multiple abnormal system indications confirm a genuine
failure; a single abnormal indication may or may not be a valid indication of
There is considerable variation between failure progressions in the oil system, so
the symptoms given below may vary from case to case.
Oil system problems may appear at any flight phase, and generally progress
gradually. They may eventually lead to severe engine damage if the engine is
not shut down.
Oil leaks
Leaks will produce a sustained reduction in oil quantity, down to zero (though
there will still be some usable oil in the system at this point). Once the oil is
completely exhausted, oil pressure will drop to zero, followed by the low oil
pressure light. There have been cases where maintenance error caused leaks
on multiple engines; it is, therefore, advisable to monitor oil quantity carefully on
the good engines as well. Rapid change in the oil quantity after power lever
movement may not indicate a leak – it may be due to oil “gulping” or “hiding” as
more oil flows into the sumps.
Bearing failures
Bearing failures will be accompanied by an increase in oil temperature and
indicated vibration. If a chip detector light is installed, it may come on. Audible
noises and filter clog messages may follow; if the failure progresses to severe
engine damage, it may be accompanied by low oil quantity and pressure
Oil pump failures
Oil pump failure will be accompanied by low indicated oil pressure and a low oil
pressure light, or by an oil filter clog message. For propellers that use engine oil
pressure for actuation, the propeller will pitchlock or move to feather.
Oil system contamination
Contamination of the oil system – by carbon deposits, cotton waste, improper
fluids, etc. – will generally lead to an oil filter clog indication or an impending
bypass indication. This indication may disappear if thrust is reduced, since the
oil flow and pressure differential across the filter will also drop.
No power lever response
A “no power lever response” type of malfunction is more subtle than the other
malfunctions previously discussed; so subtle that it can be completely
overlooked, with potentially serious consequences to the airplane.
If an engine slowly loses power – or if, when the power lever is moved, the
engine does not respond – the airplane will experience asymmetric thrust. This
may be partly concealed by the autopilot’s efforts to maintain the required flight
As is the case with flameout, if no external visual references are available, such
as when flying over the ocean at night or in IMC, asymmetric thrust may persist
for some time without the flight crew recognizing or correcting it. In several
cases, this has led to airplane upset, which was not always recoverable. As
stated, this condition is subtle and not easy to detect.
Symptoms may include:
Unexplained airplane attitude changes.
Significant differences between primary parameters from one engine to
the next.
If asymmetric thrust is suspected, the first response must be to make the
appropriate trim or rudder input. Disconnecting the autopilot without first
performing the appropriate control input or trim may result in a rapid roll
maneuver. Feathering the propeller, if it is has not auto-feathered, may also be
No starter cutout
Generally, this condition exists when the start selector remains in the start
position or the engine start valve is open when commanded closed. Since the
starter is intended only to operate at low speeds for a few minutes at a time, the
starter may fail completely (burst) and cause further engine damage if the starter
does not cut out.
Vibration is a symptom of a wide variety of engine conditions, ranging from very
benign to serious. The following are some causes of tactile or indicated
Propeller unbalance at assembly
Blade icing
Bearing failure
Blade distortion or failure
It is not easy to identify the cause of the vibration in the absence of other unusual
indications. Although the vibration from some failures may feel very severe on
the flight deck, it will not damage the airplane. There is no need to take action
based on vibration indication alone, but it can be very valuable in confirming a
problem identified by other means.
Engine vibration may be caused by propeller unbalance (ice buildup, blade
material loss due to ingested material, or blade distortion due to foreign object
damage) or by an internal engine failure. Reference to other engine parameters
will help to establish whether a failure exists.
Many failures have similar symptoms and it may not be practicable to diagnose
the nature of the engine problem from flight deck instrumentation. However, it is
not necessary to understand exactly what is wrong with the engine – selecting
the “wrong” checklist may cause some further economic damage to the engine,
but, provided action is taken with the correct engine, and airplane control is kept
as the first priority, the airplane will still be safe.
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