NASA Will Use Cereal & Crayons to Test Engine Sensors
Technicians prepare a US Air Force C-17 for engine health monitoring tests as part of the Vehicle Integrated Propulsion Research program -- a collaboration by NASA, the Air Force, and Pratt & Whitney to create a sensor system for early diagnosis of engine problems. (Source: NASA)
I agree - thanks for the article This sort of testing is the unglamorous "grunt work" that leads to advances in safety and improved performance over time. Kudos for highlighting a critical part of the design process - understanding how products perform in the real world.
Great article.I am always amazed at the resourcefulness engineers bring to the table when developing tests and executing programs.Several years ago, the Air Force had a program to evaluate bird strikes when ingested into inlets of jet engines. This came after several near-fatal accidents at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina.I was in basic training shortly before one such incident occurred.The pilot ejected successfully but the F-4 was lost. He was making touch and go landings when a swamp buzzard got into the act.It happens in a heartbeat but can be devastating.To get some idea as to severity, dead chickens were tossed into stationary aircraft, with engines running, to see what damage might result.The test was aborted due to PETA.(The chickens were dead, by the way.) This program is much more structured; consequently, you would expect the results to be much more beneficial to investigators in the process of proving sensors. I do know also that volcanic ash although infrequent, represents a real problem to aircraft engines.Again, great article.
Yes, Chuck, I remember at the time reading about the serious danger. So caution made sense, especially since they didn't know exactly where the ash was or how dense it was. Presumably, sensors in the turbines would allow the aircraft to divert from an ash cloud before the engines were destroyed.
I have to admit, Rob, I too thought they were being too cautious at the time. But after reading TJ's comment below, I'm not so sure. Apparently, one aircraft had four engines flame out after encountering an ash cloud in 1982, it says.
Yes, Chuck, the big carriers lost tons. They were furious with the government, beliving they were being overly cautious. The advantage of these sensors is that the decision to fly or not could be made based on evidence rather than speculation.
I did notice--as no doubt others did--the statement in the article about what cereal and crayons will accomplish. What I'd like to know is why cereal and crayons for this purpose, instead of something else? For example, was the choice based on size of particles, consistency, or other factors?
There is a Suit of sensors in your everyday jet engine now. These sensors can help you monitor, control, and plan maintenance. Some are even indicator only. I don't know what this extra suit of sensors will do for us? Maybe increases cost and adds weight? Other than research purposes I don't think this research has much to offer. Just an opinion, I would like to see the report to this when all is done.
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