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Propeller Blade Separation

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Article Information
Category: General General
Content source: SKYbrary About SKYbrary
Content control: SKYbrary About SKYbrary

Definition

Propeller blade separation is an occurrence where one or more blades become detached from a propeller, mounted on a running engine, due to a catastrophic failure. Blade separation can occur either during ground or flight operations and generally involve variable pitch or constant speed propellers.

Causes

Propeller blade separation can almost always be attributed to a combination of significant centrifugal force due to the high rotational speed of the propeller and one or more of:

  • Material fatigue
  • Cracks
  • Corrosion
  • Damage
  • Operation beyond design limitations
  • Improper servicing or maintenance procedures.

Effects

The consequences of propeller blade separation are significant and will often put the aircraft and is occupants at serious risk. Loss of one or more blades will induce propeller imbalance and result in severe vibration necessitating the shut down of the associated engine. This, in turn, can result in decreased performance, increased drag and may induce handling difficulties. Other potential effects of blade separation include:

  • Loss of control
  • Engine failure or damage which, in the worst case, could include tearing the engine from its mounts
  • Fuselage penetration by a detached blade or other component
  • Injury to personnel within or outside of the aircraft
  • Damage to structures and property

Prevention

To prevent blade separation, it is essential that the propeller be operated, serviced and maintained within its design specifications. Overhaul of the propeller should be accomplished as per the manufacturer's maintenance schedule and should include Non Destructive Testing (NDT) as appropriate to detect cracks, fatigue or corrosion. A damaged propeller should immediately be removed from service for repair or replacement.

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