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Corrosion is one of an aircraft owner’s worst enemies. If left untreated, corrosion can cause unsightly damage to the aircraft and create a serious safety risk, too. That’s why it is so important to conduct inspections of your aircraft as much as possible, even when you have not used it recently, to make sure there are no signs of corrosion. Those who have owned an aircraft for a long time know that the more you inspect an aircraft for corrosion, the better you can detect and remove it before it becomes a serious problem.
Once you get into the habit of regularly inspecting your plane, you may notice certain areas that seem to have corrosion far more than other spots of the aircraft. Where should you inspect? Although it’s important to check every nook and cranny of an aircraft for corrosion, there are areas that are more prone to this issue. Be sure to add these areas to your maintenance checklist and take a little more time than usual to check for corrosion.
One of the easiest places to inspect for corrosion is the external surface of the aircraft. Even if a surface treatment was applied to your aircraft to prevent corrosion, this can be compromised by drilling and riveting. Make sure you always check the areas around fasteners and any spot where you noticed chips or cracks in the paint. Another area of concern should be the piano type hinges used on your aircraft. Piano type hinges used on aircrafts are also prone to corrosion because their design naturally traps moisture and debris. If you do find any external areas with corrosion on your aircraft, be sure to apply an airplane polish that will remove all signs of oxidation or corrosion on the surface as soon as possible.
Battery Compartments and Vent Openings
Many products claim to protect and seal the battery compartments and vent openings of an aircraft, however, even with these products, these areas are prone to corrosion. Make sure you implement a regular cleaning schedule for this area of the plane, and if you notice any corrosion, get rid of it as soon as possible to prevent further harm to your aircraft.
Wheel Well and Landing Gear
The wheel well and landing gear is probably exposed to more external elements than any other part of the aircraft. Mud, water, salt, gravel and flying debris can easily make contact with the wheel well and landing gear, which is why it’s so important to thoroughly check for corrosion here. To make matters worse, most products used to prevent corrosion cannot be applied to this area of the aircraft because of the heat generated when the aircraft’s brakes are in use. When you inspect this area for corrosion, be sure to pay close attention to magnesium wheels to see if there is any water trapped around the lugs or bolt heads. It is also important you pay extra attention to exposed rigid tubing, position indicator switches and any other electrical equipment within the wheel well or landing gear area. The tiny crevices between stiffeners and ribs often collect water or debris, so make sure you clear this area out and check for corrosion whenever you conduct routine aircraft maintenance.
Engine Frontal Areas and Cooling Air Vents
Gravel from a runway constantly hits these frontal areas during takeoff and landing, as does dirt, debris and rain while the aircraft is in flight. The debris and tiny pieces of gravel can remove any protective finish you have applied to your plane, so frequent inspection of this area is vital. When you do inspect these areas, pay a little extra attention to the cooling air path, which is known to collect salt.
Water Entrapment Areas
Aircrafts are required to have drains located in certain areas where water is more likely to collect. As you check the aircraft for corrosion, be sure to inspect these drains and clean them to prevent the buildup of debris or grease.
Exhaust Trail Areas
Exhaust deposits from the engine can be incredibly corrosive, especially to gaps, seams and hinges. If gaps, seams or hinges are located downstream from your aircraft’s exhaust pipes or nozzles, you need to add this area to your regular inspection checklist. Look closely at every crevice in this area, since corrosion can be hard to spot. The buildup of exhaust deposits is slow in this part of the plane, so unfortunately, you may not notice there’s a problem until corrosion has already occurred.
This part of the plane usually causes the most corrosion trouble on aircrafts. The bilge areas of the plane collect waste hydraulic fluids, water, dirt, dust and other debris, which can lead to corrosion and other forms of aircraft damage. To keep this area free from corrosion, take the time to frequently clean it. Use a strong vacuum cleaner to remove all dust, dirt and debris, and then thoroughly wipe the entire area down with a clean cloth to remove anything that is left behind.
Regardless of whether your aircraft uses carbon steel or corrosion resistant steel, they should be regularly inspected to determine whether there is corrosion. To check for corrosion, select random sections of the cables and clean them with a soft cloth soaked in a solvent. If the corrosion is only on the outside, remove it with an abrasive pad damp with oil, or use a steel wire brush. After all of the corrosion has been removed, reapply a protective coating to the cables to prevent or delay future damage. However, if the corrosion is inside the cables, they must be replaced as soon as possible.
It is important that you take the time to closely examine every part of your aircraft to make sure there are no signs of corrosion, but especially in these areas. Corrosion is not only aesthetically unpleasant, but it can also significantly impact the aircraft’s strength and structure.