Aircraft are regularly subject to countless stressors during flight operations, requiring robust construction and advanced systems capable of monitoring health and operational conditions. Vibration is often a major stressor faced by aircraft, stemming from various sources. If left unchecked, vibration has the potential to cause cracking, avionic failure, or even a loss of engine performance. As metal structures continuously become fatigued from vibration, engines may reach a point where they risk failure. As a result, it is critical that all pilots understand the importance of monitoring aircraft vibrations and how such procedures may be carried out.
Detrimental vibration is often sourced from the engine of the aircraft due to the presence of some form of imbalance. If rotating components exhibit an uneven distribution of mass, they can easily produce a large amount of vibration during flight operations. Imbalance can be caused by numerous issues, those of which most often result from a prior installation or impacts. When replacing fan blade components, there may be a possibility that an uneven mass balance is created, resulting in the chance of vibrations. Additionally, wear and tear over standard operations can also have an effect on imbalances, and corrosion may exacerbate issues. As such, it is paramount that a pilot enacts regular inspections, maintenance, and monitoring for any signs of wear or damage that may cause hazards.
In order to measure vibration, various vibration monitoring equipment or balancing equipment may be used. A portable vibration analyzer is very beneficial, allowing one to measure, identify, and potentially correct imbalances with ease. When measuring vibration levels, one should familiarize themselves with the common severity scale referenced by most pilots. Within the aviation sector, vibrations are measured on a scale that ranges from 0 to 1.25 inches per second (IPS). For example, a range of 0 to 0.07 IPS is a good value of vibration, often not warranting any concern. As values move into the range of 0.15 to 0.25, vibrations will begin to reach the rough range. Once the IPS reaches or surpasses a value of 1.0 IPS, it is considered to be a dangerous level of vibration.
Whenever one is carrying out analysis with a vibration sensor, the total vibration is considered to be the sum of vibrations that are sourced from structures such as the engine, fan, gearbox, and prop. As a result, it can be somewhat complicated to use vibration analyzer tools and balancing equipment as structural characteristics of the aircraft may cause issues as well. Generally, the placement of the vibration sensor and the mount that it is placed on will affect readings due to how vibrations are both felt and distributed. Typically, one should refer to the recommendations set forth by the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) before installing the sensor and its mount. Alongside additional recommended equipment, more accurate measurements may be obtained for better readings. Oftentimes, the engine manufacturer will state how often maintenance should be conducted, and operators can ensure that any imbalances are remedied during this time to avoid vibrations and other such issues.
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