Dust and dirt can be a serious source of trouble to an aircraft engine. Dust consists of small particles of hard, abrasive material that can be carried by the air and drawn into the engine cylinders. It can also collect on the fuel-metering elements of the carburetor, upsetting the proper relation between airflow and fuel flow at all engine power settings. It acts on the cylinder walls by grinding down these surfaces and the piston rings. Then, it contaminates the oil and is carried through the engine, causing further wear on the bearings and gears. In extreme cases, an accumulation may clog an oil passage and cause oil starvation.
Although dust conditions are most critical at ground level, continued operation under such conditions without engine protection results in extreme engine wear and can produce excessive oil consumption. When operation in a dusty atmosphere is necessary, the engine can be protected by an alternate induction system air inlet which incorporates a dust filter. This type of air filter system normally consists of a filter element, a door, and an electrically operated actuator. When the filter system is operating, air is drawn through a louvered access panel that does not face directly into the airstream. With this entrance location, considerable dust is removed as the air is forced to turn and enter the duct. Since the dust particles are solid, they tend to continue in a straight line, and most of them are separated at this point. Those that are drawn into the louvers are easily removed by the filter.
In flight, with air filters operating, consideration must be given to possible icing conditions which may occur from actual surface icing or from freezing of the filter element after it becomes rain soaked. Some installations have a spring-loaded filter door which automatically opens when the filter is excessively restricted. This prevents the airflow from being cut off when the filter is clogged with ice or dirt. Other systems use an ice guard in the filtered-air entrance.
The ice guard consists of a coarse-mesh screen located a short distance from the filtered-air entrance. In this location, the screen is directly in the path of incoming air so that the air must pass through or around the screen. When ice forms on the screen, the air, which has lost its heavy moisture particles, passes around the iced screen and into the filter element. The efficiency of any filter system depends upon proper maintenance and servicing. Periodic removal and cleaning of the filter element is essential to satisfactory engine protection.