No Ordinary C Check

Single-aircraft C check contract announcements don't usually warrant dedicated write-ups, but it says here that the subject of AerSale's recent win is worth a few taps on the keyboard.
AerSale recently welcomed N817NA--better known as NASA's DC-8-72 airborne science lab--to its Roswell, N.M. facilities for a major check. AerSale--no stranger to the DC-8-70--The work will include routine maintenance customized for the aircraft's low-utilization schedule as well as corrosion prevention initiatives. 

blog post photo
NASA calls the plane, which it acquired in 1985, "highly modified"--and it's not talking about the CFM56-2s that lifted the plane to -72 status. The aircraft has nearly 150 specially installed instruments that measure everything from ice sheet thickness to radar backscatter. It also has a colorful history--both literally and figuratively.
It rolled off the assembly line in 1969 and spent a decade in service with Alitalia, carrying the name of Italian composer Giacomo Puccini. Its last commercial-service years were spent bathed in Braniff colors. (Blue, to be precise.)
Even its maintenance history is lively.
In February 2000, the crew was en route to Kiruna, Sweden as part of an Arctic ozone study. The crew's flight plan routed it 200 miles around what was believed to be the outer perimeter of a drifting ash cloud created by the eruption of Iceland's Mt. Hekla. But the ash cloud itself wasn't aware of the forecast, and the DC-8 flew right through it, capturing reams of data--and setting up $3 million in engine overhaul costs--in the process. From the report on the incident:
Even though this was a diffuse ash cloud, the exposure was long enough and engine temperatures were high enough that engine hot section blades and vanes were coated and cooling air passages were partially or completely blocked. The uncooled blades still performed aerodynamically but necessitated expensive overhauls. The insidious nature of this encounter and the resulting damage was such that engine trending did not reveal a problem, yet hot section parts may have begun to fail (through blade erosion) if flown another 100 hr.
Want to learn more about what the bird can do? Check out the DC-8 Airborne Science Experimenter Handbook.

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A Century of Aviation Week

Aviation Week & Space Technology is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. In a series of blogs, our editors highlight editorial content from the magazine's long and rich history.


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