When conducting flight operations, engine instruments provide critical information about the health and performance of the engine, ensuring its correct operation and longevity of service. With the data obtained through engine monitoring, logging may also be conducted to aid in maintenance endeavors, allowing those servicing the engine to be aware of various trends of the system’s well-being. Although each aircraft may differ in their available instruments, some common types include the pressure gauge, temperature gauge, fuel gauge, and more. To ensure a safe flight and long service life of the engine, it is important to understand the various aircraft engine instruments that are available, as well as the significance of each.
When measuring the speed of an engine such as a turbofan engine, readings are typically presented in rotations per minute (RPM). As engines may differ in their internal components and contain sections that rotate at various speeds, tachometers are often calibrated in percent RPM in order to accommodate different engines. In general, the tachometer is most important for conducting readings during normal flight conditions, as well as during the engine start up to ensure a proper RPM for flight. While older aircraft utilize a mechanical, cable driven tachometer, later aircraft feature a cable attached to a magnet which revolves within an aluminum cup.
Similar to the rotation of an aircraft engine, monitoring the torque applied to the shaft is important to be aware of the power that is provided by the engine. With an aircraft engine instrument such as the torquemeter, the amount of torque that is being produced may be measured. To conduct readings, the torquemeter is operated with engine oil pressure which is metered through a valve, governed by a ring gear that responds to applied torque. Through torque affecting the oil pressure and tachometer directly, the oil pressure becomes proportional to the amount of torque that is present. When monitoring the instrument from within the aircraft cockpit, measurements may be obtained in regards to pounds per foot of torque, or percent horsepower. Utilizing a torquemeter is critical for safe operation, as it allows for proper power settings for flight.
Similar to understanding the power being produced by an engine and its speed, it is also just as beneficial to be aware of the flow of fuel that is being provided to the engine, ensuring that sufficient fuel combustion takes place to provide propulsion for the aircraft. The fuel-flow indicator is an aircraft engine instrument that indicates the amount of fuel being fed to the engine in the form of pounds per hour (lb/hr). While one may expect the instrument to provide readings in terms of gallons, measuring in weight is much more important as weight is always a critical factor of aerodynamics for the operation of larger aircraft. With the reading and logging of fuel flow, fuel consumption and engine operation can be measured to find trends in performance.
The engine oil pressure indicator serves to protect the aircraft from engine failure, typically caused when there is improper lubrication and cooling of engine parts. By monitoring the engine oil pump discharge pressure, oil supply to critical areas may be logged. While sufficient oil is always important for the longevity of the engine and its parts, so too is the temperature of such oil. With the engine oil temperature indicator, the temperature of oil is measured as it enters the oil pressure pump. These readings also extend to the performance and operation of the engine oil cooler as well, allowing pilots and maintenance workers to be aware if the cooler needs to be inspected or maintained.
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