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Battlelab demonstrates new propeller balancing system

  • Published
The Air Mobility Battlelab recently demonstrated a new in-flight propeller balancing system that can greatly reduce propeller vibration levels and ground maintenance requirements.

Currently C-130 Hercules propeller balancing procedures are similar to spin balancing the wheel of an automobile, officials said. Technicians must spin an out-of-balance propeller to determine where an imbalance exists, add or subtract small propeller weights to adjust the balance, and spin the propeller again to see if the balance is right. This process is repeated until the propeller is balanced.

The problem with the current procedure is it can take several attempts to get it right, which makes the procedure time consuming and manpower intensive, officials said.

Also, once the aircraft is airborne, the aerodynamic forces acting on the propeller blades actually change the balance of the propeller and nullify the ground-balancing effort, officials said.

The solution is an active balancing system which constantly monitors propeller balance during flight and makes the necessary balance corrections in a matter of seconds.

“(This system) is and does just that,” said Michael Corson, battlelab project manager. “It’s an electromagnetic balancing system that determines an imbalance condition and repositions two weighted rings to counter the imbalance. An electronic controller continuously monitors propeller balance and makes corrections automatically.”

The battlelab installed the new system on a C-130 Hercules assigned to the 913th Airlift Wing from Willow Grove Air Reserve Station, Pa. Aircraft maintenance technicians from the 913th Maintenance Group worked closely with contracted engineers to install system on the demonstration propeller. After a successful ground demonstration, the propeller was installed on the C-130 and flight tested at Willow Grove by officials of the Warner Robins Air Logistics Center’s test directorate.

Data gathered during the demonstration showed the system is very capable of performing highly accurate balance corrections automatically during flight. Its performance offers the potential to greatly reduce ground maintenance time and actions.

“The system worked well beyond expectations,” Mr. Corson said.

The state-of-the-art system supports Air Mobility Command objectives to improve weapon systems performance and reduce the logistics footprint.

The Air Mobility Battlelab explores high-payoff concepts, technologies and tactics to advance the U.S. Air Force distinctive capabilities of rapid global mobility and agile combat support. Located at the Air Mobility Warfare Center here, the Air Mobility Battlelab was established on Jan. 1, 2001 in response to AMC’s need to make innovation practical for rapid global mobility. (Courtesy of AMC News Service)