Vibration is something that should never be ignored in aviation. Not only does it make flying uncomfortable for pilots and passengers, but prolonged vibration can put excess stress on critical components in your aircraft, leading to fatigue, cracks, and failures.
Sometimes, what appears to be engine vibration is actually due to an imbalanced propeller. But even if you can’t feel or hear vibration while flying, your aircraft propeller could still be out of balance. Over time, a slight propeller imbalance can lead to vibration problems that gradually grow in magnitude and compromise flight safety.
Proper propeller balancing is key to correcting vibration issues early, helping to prolong the service life of components ranging from the exhaust system, engine mount, and airframe to the cowling, spinner, instruments, and avionics. There are two main types of propeller balancing: static and dynamic.
Static propeller balancing is about bringing the prop in balance with itself so one blade isn’t heavier or lighter than the others. If you have a Hartzell propeller, your prop is statically balanced right here in the factory. Static balancing is also a standard step completed by prop shops after a routine repair or overhaul.
Once installed on the aircraft, the propeller endures significant stresses during flight. This can cause the propeller assembly to come out of balance over time. That’s why, in addition to static balancing, most propellers also benefit from dynamic balancing.
While not required as part of the overhaul process, many pilots elect to have their propellers dynamically balanced to fine-tune their prop assembly and protect critical components of their aircraft. Dynamic balancing involves using accelerometer sensors to measure the vibration magnitude in IPS (inches per second) the prop/engine system is experiencing while in operation.
This technology allows propeller technicians to pinpoint the angle at which the imbalance exists so they can add (or remove) a small amount of weight to correct the imbalance. The process is repeated until the assembly is balanced. With a high level of precision, dynamic balancing ensures the engine and prop combination is balanced as a whole, making the entire aircraft smooth.
Anytime your propeller comes off the aircraft for service, repair, or overhaul, it’s a good idea to perform dynamic balancing as a preventative measure. Even if everything felt smooth to begin with, we’ve heard many pilots report a noticeable difference in their flight experience after dynamic propeller balancing!
Steve Thorne of Flight Chops visited Hartzell Propeller last year to balance the Explorer prop on his RV-14. Watch to see Hartzell’s dynamic balancing process in action and get an inside look at our facilities.
Hartzell Propeller offers propeller overhaul, repair, and dynamic balancing at our on-site Service Center in Piqua, Ohio. Dynamic balancing typically takes just a few hours to complete, leading to many hours of safe, smooth flying. Fly in to our Service Center or view our global network of Recommended Service Facilities to find a reputable Hartzell prop shop near you.