Why is Engine Wash Important?

As we are quickly heading into warmer times in the northern hemisphere, we would like to shift focus a bit from winter operations.  Jet engines are quite remarkable and fun to write about.  Do you ever sit and wonder what’s behind that gigantic piece of machinery you’re looking at through your wing-side seat?  There is so much to discuss we could write a book about it, but for today we’ll give you a short read that you can enjoy. 

Boeing 777-300ER with a GE90 engine gracefully approaching Greenland. Photo credit: SLP.

Some Fun Facts

Did you know that Sir Frank Whittle from England and Hans von Ohain from Germany are recognized as the inventors of the jet engine?  Although the idea of jet power dates back centuries, Sir Frank and Hans von Ohain of Germany developed their first prototypes of turbojets independently in the late 1930s.  They did not know each other at the time.  Turbofan engines are the most used in commercial aircraft today and in time have been engineered to burn less fuel and be more efficient than previous generations.

Hans von Ohain to the left and Frank Whittle to the right of this photograph.

The world’s dominating turbofan engine manufactures are General Electric from the United States, Rolls Royce from England, and Pratt and Whitney, also from the United States.

Jet engine sizes vary from 39″ in diameter up to 123″.  Currently, the biggest turbofan engine is the GE90 from General Electric used on Boeing 777’s, but late last year, the FAA signed off on the GE9X, which is even bigger than the GE90 standing at 134″ in diameter (that’s more than double the size of this author)!  Big engines are proven to be more efficient than smaller ones and will probably end up replacing the need for four engines on commercial aircraft altogether.  Take a look at this doodle from MINUTE PHYSICS for a size comparison:

The Dirty Details

There are many details into the mechanics of a turbofan engine, but very simply (and eloquently) put by boldmethod, the process is basically “suck, squeeze, burn, blow”!  Once an engine is turned on, fast-moving air gets sucked into the inlet, travels through different components within the core, creates the thrust needed to lift the aircraft or keep it airborne, then exits through the back of the engine at very high temperatures. 

Airborne contaminants like dust, soot, sand, insects, soil engines upon entry, and particulate matter that is created during combustion processes also soil an engine upon exit and are eventually emitted into the air we breathe.  The build-up of these particles reduces a jet engine’s performance, leads to deterioration, and will eventually cost more to maintain than necessary.  Salts in particular can corrode certain components which worsen the airflow and can degrade certain engine parts. This is why it is important to keep engines clean regularly.

How We Wash an Engine

There are several systems out there that provide jet engine washing and flushing, but it is only one of several functionalities of the Multi-Solution Gate.  The same telescopic arms that are used to wash and deice an aircraft in our system can also be used to flush and wash an engine. Depending on the level of contamination, this process is relatively fast and can be done in combination with the wash of an aircraft. The repetitiveness of the machine allows for more frequency and accessibility, making this function an easy and regular part of operations.

A collection unit prevents the contaminated fluids from washing an engine from spilling to the ground and allows for examination of the dirt removed.