Engine Testing of Reciprocating Engines
The procedures and equipment used in determining that an engine is ready for airworthy service and is in excellent mechanical condition, normally requires the use of a test stand, or test cell, although the aircraft can be used. [Figure 10-33]
The method of engine testing or run-in that takes place during overhaul prior to delivery of the engine is critical to the airworthiness of the engine. It must be emphasized that engine run-in is as vital as any other phase of engine overhaul, for it is the means by which the quality of a new or newly overhauled engine is checked, and it is the final step in the preparation of an engine for service. Thus, the reliability and potential service life of an engine is in question until it has satisfactorily passed the cell test.
The test serves a dual purpose. First, it accomplishes piston ring run-in and bearing burnishing. Second, it provides valuable information that it used to evaluate engine performance and determine engine condition. To provide proper oil flow to the upper portion of the cylinder barrel walls with a minimum loss of oil, it is important that piston rings be properly seated in the cylinder in which they are installed. The process is called piston ring run-in (breakin) and is accomplished chiefly by controlled operation of the engine in the high-speed range. Improper piston ring conditioning, or run-in, may result in unsatisfactory engine operation with high oil consumption. A process called bearing burnishing creates a highly polished surface on new bearings and bushings installed during overhaul. The burnishing is usually accomplished during the first periods of the engine run-in at comparatively slow engine speeds.
The failure of any part during engine testing or run-in requires that the engine be returned, repaired, and completely retested. After an engine has successfully completed test requirements, it is then specially treated to prevent corrosion, if it is shipped or stored before being installed in an aircraft. During the final run-in period during testing, the engines are operated on the proper grade of fuel prescribed for the particular kind of engine. The oil system is serviced with a mixture of corrosion-preventive compound and engine oil. The temperature of this mixture is maintained at 105 °C to 121 °C. Near the end of final run-in, corrosion-preventive mixture (CPM) is used as the engine lubricant. The engine induction passages and combustion chambers are also treated with CPM by an aspiration method. CPM is drawn or breathed into the engine.
Test Cell Requirements
The test cell requires an area to mount and hold the engine for testing. The cell needs to have the controls, instruments, and any special equipment to evaluate the total performance of the engine. A test club should be used for testing instead of a flight propeller. [Figure 10-34] A test club provides more cooling air flow and the correct amount of load. The operational tests and test procedures vary with individual engines, but the basic requirements are generally closely related.
The test cell control room contains the controls used to operate the engine and the instruments used to measure various temperatures and pressures, fuel flow, and other factors. These devices are necessary in providing an accurate check and an evaluation of the operating engine. The control room is separate from, but adjacent to, the space (test cell) that houses the engine being tested. The safe, economical, and reliable testing of modern aircraft engines depends largely upon the use of instruments. In engine run-in procedures, the same basic engine instruments are used as when the engine is installed in the aircraft, plus some additional connections to these instruments, and some indicating and measuring devices that cannot be practically installed in the aircraft. Instruments used in the testing procedures are inspected and calibrated periodically, as are instruments installed in the aircraft; thus, accurate information concerning engine operation is ensured.
Engine instruments can operate using different methods, some mechanically, some electrically, and some by sensing the direct pressure of air or liquid. Some of the basic instruments are:
1. Carburetor air temperature gauge
2. Fuel pressure gauge
3. Fuel flowmeter
4. Manifold pressure gauge
5. Oil temperature gauge
6. Oil pressure gauge
8. Exhaust gas temperature gauge
9. Cylinder head temperature gauge
Instrument markings, ranges of operation, minimum and maximum limits, and the interpretation of these markings are general to all the instruments. Generally, the instrument marking system consists of three colors: red, yellow, and green. A red line, or mark, indicates a point beyond which a dangerous operating condition exists. A red arc indicates a dangerous operating range due generally to an engine propeller vibration range. This arc can be passed through, but the engine cannot be operated in this area. Of the two, the red mark is used more commonly and is located radially on the cover glass or dial face. The yellow arc covers a given range of operation and is an indication of caution. Generally, the yellow arc is located on the outer circumference of the instrument cover glass or dial face. The green arc shows a normal and safe range of operation. When the markings appear on the cover glass, a white line is used as an index mark, often called a slippage mark. The white radial mark indicates any movement between the cover glass and the case, a condition that would cause mislocation of the other range and limit markings.