Research Papers: Gas Turbines: Aircraft Engine

Assessment and Characterization of Volcanic Ash Threat to Gas Turbine Engine Performance

[+] Author and Article Information
Craig R. Davison

Gas Turbine Laboratory,
National Research Council Canada,
1200 Montreal Road,
Ottawa, ON K1A 0R6, Canada
e-mail: craig.davison@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca

Timothy A. Rutke

Gas Turbine Laboratory,
National Research Council Canada,
196 Forsyth Road,
Newmarket, ON L3Y 7Y1, Canada
e-mail: timrutke@gmail.com

Contributed by the Aircraft Engine Committee of ASME for publication in the JOURNAL OF ENGINEERING FOR GAS TURBINES AND POWER. Manuscript received January 8, 2014; final manuscript received January 24, 2014; published online March 13, 2014. Editor: David Wisler.

J. Eng. Gas Turbines Power 136(8), 081201 (Mar 13, 2014) (10 pages) Paper No: GTP-14-1006; doi: 10.1115/1.4026810 History: Received January 08, 2014; Revised January 24, 2014

Multiple volcanoes erupt yearly propelling volcanic ash into the atmosphere and creating an aviation hazard. The plinian eruption type is most likely to create a significant aviation hazard. Plinian eruptions can eject large quantities of fine ash up to an altitude of 50,000 m (164,000 ft). While large airborne particles rapidly fall, smaller particles at reduced concentrations drift for days to weeks as they gradually descend and deposit on the ground. Very small particles, less than 1 μm, can remain aloft for years. An average of three aircraft encounters with volcanic ash was reported every year between 1973 and 2003. Of these, eight resulted in some loss of engine power, including a complete shutdown of all four engines on a Boeing 747. However, no crashes have been attributed to volcanic ash. The major forms of engine damage caused by volcanic ash are: (1) deposition of ash on turbine nozzles and blades due to glassification (2) erosion of compressor and turbine blades (3) carbon deposits on fuel nozzles. The combination of these effects can push the engine to surge and flame out. If a flame out occurs, engine restart may be possible. Less serious engine damage can also occur. In most cases the major damage will require an engine overhaul long before the minor damage becomes an operational issue, but under some conditions no sign of volcanic ash is evident and the turbine cooling system blockage could go unnoticed until an engine inspection is performed. Several organizations provide aircrew procedures to respond to encounters with a volcanic ash cloud. If a volcanic ash encounter is suspected, then an engine inspection, including borescope, should be performed with particular attention given to the turbine cooling system.

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Fig. 1

Eyjafjallajökull erupting in April 2010 [2]

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Fig. 2

World map showing volcanic “hot spots” (red dots) and tectonic plate boundaries (black lines) [7]

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Fig. 3

Major types of volcanic eruptions and associated plumes [9]

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Fig. 4

Modeled ash dispersal in the absence of wind and aggregation for a plume height of 22.8 km [12]

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Fig. 5

First to fourth stage T56 turbine rotor blades after an encounter with Mount St. Helens ash cloud [5]

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Fig. 6

Upstream view of first stage NGV deposits as a result of dust exposure (with black scoria) on a GE YF-101-100 engine [23]

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Fig. 7

Downstream view of first stage NGV deposits as a result of dust exposure (with black scoria) on a GE YF-101-100 engine [16, 23]

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Fig. 8

Various incidents and current envelopes of operation in dust-laden environments from Rolls Royce, May 17, 2010 (adapted from [27])




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