29 September 2010
Hercules propeller (photo : DSTO)
DSTO has developed software for Air Force C-130J aircraft to vastly improve the process of dynamic balancing of propellers to reduce vibration levels. It has proved so useful that with the exception of the United States which is still reviewing the terms of the software licence, all C-130J users ( UK, Italy, Denmark, Canada and Norway) will soon start using the software. DSTO scientist, Brian Rebbechi, acknowledged the support from Air Force No. 37 Squadron, SQNLDR Vince Chong and SQNLDR Herman Wong, as pivotal in getting this project off the ground a number of years ago. “Without their enduring support… this would never have made it.”
To develop the initial concept, DSTO scientists carried out a flight test program on an Air Force C-130J aircraft. The results were used to develop an algorithm that together with data obtained from existing onboard sensors, provided a propeller balance solution. Data can now be acquired during normal flight operations.
“We found an advanced engine monitoring capability that was active but wasn’t being used. Access to this capability required no modification or change to aircraft hardware or software – only a tool to extract and decode data from a data bank recorded during every flight,” said DSTO’s Brian Rebbechi.
Balancing will now take two hours without the need for engine ground runs. Previously balancing required up to five maintenance staff, 1-2 days, and multiple ground runs. Extensive manual effort was required to temporarily install sensors, external wiring and test equipment. The ‘working at height’ OH&S issues associated with the temporary over-wing wiring caused further complications.
The software has the potential for ongoing savings for the Air Force of over $2 million worth of maintenance hours and fuel savings over the life of the aircraft, and frees up personnel and aircraft for other tasks.
The Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) is part of Australia's Department of Defence. DSTO's role is to ensure the expert, impartial and innovative application of science and technology to the defence of Australia and its national interests.