Sad but true: Aircraft propellers are one of the most underappreciated components on an airplane. It’s easy to forget just how much stress your prop endures! During flight, each propeller blade withstands 10 to 25 tons of centrifugal force, bending and flexing due to the extreme thrust and torque loads. But once on the ground, many aircraft owners end up taking their hard-working propellers for granted.
Maybe it’s that propellers don’t ask for much. Aside from scheduled maintenance and recommended propeller overhaul intervals, aircraft propellers usually need minimal preventative care between flights. To keep your propeller operating at its best, keep the blades clean and corrosion-free, take care on gravel and dirt, and perform pre-flight and post-flight inspections every time.
Most importantly, don’t ignore or neglect your propeller. All too often, aircraft owners wait until it’s too late and their prop is damaged beyond repair before consulting a professional.
If you pay attention, your prop can tell you a lot! Take a hint and look for these signs that your aircraft propeller is trying to warn you about a potential problem:
If you notice grease or oil leaking from around the propeller hub or streaks on the propeller blades, get it checked out by a certified prop shop right away. Unexpected grease or oil leaks are often warning signs that the seals within the propeller hub have finally given way, or even that the hub itself is getting ready to fail.
Excessive vibration during flight can leave any pilot feeling shaky. If the vibration is sudden and seems to increase with power, land as soon as you can. No matter if it’s coming from the engine, propeller, or spinner, powerplant vibration is a serious cause for concern. It could be that your airplane propeller is out of balance, causing the airplane to vibrate in its mount. This excessive vibration can lead to various issues, including cracks in the airframe, cowling, and spinner, damaged exhaust systems, and premature engine wear. Not to mention, dealing with vibration is physically and mentally stressful for both pilots and passengers.
It’s always best to have vibration problems addressed early, before they can worsen. Take your airplane to a qualified mechanic to determine where the vibration is originating from. Having your aircraft propeller dynamically balanced is one way to reduce excessive vibration and protect wear and fatigue on your engine.
Remember those pre- and post-flight inspections we mentioned earlier? They’re an essential way to spot signs of damage developing on your propeller blades. Start by running your hand over the leading and trailing edges of the prop to feel for any small imperfections. Then, perform a visual inspection, looking for nicks, dings, dents, and scratches.
If you notice anything abnormal when inspecting your propeller, don’t wait — have it dressed out by a maintenance professional right away. No matter how “minor” the damage may seem, ignoring it is a big mistake. Under the high stress of flight, nicks can develop into a dangerous crack in the propeller blade. Blade cracks can grow rapidly on subsequent flights, potentially leading to catastrophic propeller blade failure. As they say, preflight like your life depends on it, because it very well could!
When you know what your airplane propeller is trying to tell you — and what to look for — you can avoid many prop problems altogether!
When you need a reputable propeller maintenance, repair, and overhaul facility, look no further than Hartzell Propeller’s network of Recommended Service Facilities. These are distinguished prop shops around the globe that meet Hartzell’s high standards for quality, service, and safety.
For Hartzell propeller service directly from the source, turn to our Hartzell Service Center in Piqua, Ohio, providing high-quality propeller repairs and propeller overhauls in short lead times at a competitive price.
Whether you choose our Hartzell Service Center or one of our Recommended Service Facilities, you can be confident that your airplane propeller overhaul, maintenance, or repair will be prompt, professional, and performed with the utmost safety and quality. Contact us today to get started!