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Keeping Those Engines Clean

EAA AirVenture touches all aspects of aerospace, from homebuilt aircraft to space flight, from warbirds to the maintenance of military aircraft.

A chance encounter with Mike Nowicki, president of Vector-Hawk Aerospace of Daleville, Alabama, brought forth the disclosure that from next month the company will begin manufacturing engine-wash systems for the world’s fleet of Pratt & Whitney PT6-powered aircraft, starting with the King Air.

This will bring huge advantages to fleet operators, such as the military, who operate their aircraft in far from ideal conditions that steadily contaminate and damage their engines. Regular washing can restore EGT margin and reduce fuel burn by as much as one percent, greatly reduce corrosion from salt-laden air, and reduce engine overhaul costs.

Vector-Hawk was formed as a joint venture between Blackhawk Modifications and Vector Aerospace to support and repair the turboprop and turboshaft engines of government and military fleets of aircraft, such as the PT6-powered King Air and Cessna Caravan. It has since been appointed the exclusive worldwide marketer for the small version of the EcoPower engine washing system that was developed by Pratt & Whitney for airline engines and later sold to ST Aerospace subsidiary VT Aerospace.

The trick has been to develop engine wash manifolds for turboprop aircraft, which can present type-specific challenges such as on the PT6, which has a reverse flow through the engine.

“Our first unit is coming out next month,” says Nowicki, and FAA approval is expected shortly after. The first two units are already earmarked for a foreign military, and the U.S. Army has indicated it could take up to 20 units in short order.

The small-sized EcoPower unit can also be used to wash aircraft and vehicle exteriors, even turbine engines in military tanks, and can incorporate a deicing function. List price is around $100,000. “We’re looking at other engines, including Turbomeca and GE,” Nowicki adds.

The portable EcoPower wash uses atomized water sprays and no detergents or solvents, and collects and recycles the effluent from the engine. It can wash an engine in about 30 minutes.

“One operator sent us an engine to overhaul,” says Nowicki, “where the corrosion was so bad it cost $450,000. The overhaul would have cost only $320,000 had they had EcoPower to keep it washed.”

EcoPower wash at work on a large engine, an F117 on a C-17 transport.

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