Controlling corrosion could quite possibly be one of the biggest challenges for aircraft owners, and getting to know the best ways to address it is important. Corrosion is a form of metal erosion that can cause costly and extensive damage to a plane’s structure. If not controlled, it can also lead to serious safety risks.
The main way to combat corrosion on a plane’s surface is to find ways to protect it. While some metal alloy manufacturers work protectants into the surfaces of the metals they produce, applying the right aircraft metal polish is yet another way to protect your plane from the effects of corrosion. Effective use of an excellent metal aircraft polish can yield protective results for corrosion control.
The easiest way to describe corrosion is simply rust of metal surfaces. It’s possible to find corrosion on any type of metal, including stainless steel, aluminimum, copper and the relative alloys of metals.
Corrosion occurs anytime metal contacts electrochemical agents such as salts and acids. The resultant chemical reactions cause discolorations in the metals as the agents begin to break down the metal’s structure. The discolorations vary by color – red, gray, white or even green.
Some metals display a kind of pitting in response to corrosion. This localized type of corrosion is extremely dangerous to aircraft’s surfaces as it produces small holes or pock marks which can be extremely hard to detect, but can lead to cracks or irregularities in an aircraft surface. When pitting occurs in areas already under stress from normal wear and tear of a plane, the effects can be catastrophic.
The main factor behind corrosion for an aircraft is always climate. Depending on hangar location and flight courses, a plane can be exposed to certain weather conditions over time which yield just the right mixture of chemical agents.
One of the toughest climates to combat corrosion in are the seaside climates. Seawater is well known for containing the salts which can cause serious damage to metal surfaces. Water vapor acts as a carrier for these corrosive salts, which leads to rust and pitting on any exposed metal surface. The damage is especially extensive when the salts are mixed with chemical pollution from local factories and manufacturing plants.
Beyond climate, other factors can cause corrosion as well. Soil and dust clinging to an aircraft surface can eventually cause a breakdown in the metal structure since soil often contains chemical agents from runoff and rainwater. Residues from grease and oil, especially in the engine area and areas where temperatures are high, can cause significant corrosive damage. Also, any substance that produces acidic reactions, such as some cleaning solutions and battery acid spills, can cause corrosion.
Getting to Know the Types of Corrosion
One of the best ways to tackle corrosion control is to know what to look for when inspecting your plane. There are many types of corrosion with identifiable symptoms which can help explain the chemical agents behind a corrosive attack.
Stress corrosion is often the main culprit behind cracks in areas where the strength of the metal is already compromised – either through frequent use or major strain. Stress corrosion occurs when chemical agent attacks are combined with surface tension. The ensuing cracks in the aircraft surface can happen quickly and can be difficult to repair, so early detection is key.
Another type of corrosion is called fretting corrosion. This describes the corrosive attacks which occur as a result of friction between two resting metal surfaces. Fretting corrosion is often found around the parts of a plane that stay in motion. Even the slightest motion between two metal surfaces on an aircraft can produce the heat which stimulates corrosive action.
Yet another type of corrosion is that which occurs due to metal contamination. When two different types of metal come into contact with each other, the resulting mix of metals can attract corrosive elements and begin the corrosive process. For example, when steel wool is used as an abrasive with cleaners on some aluminium alloy surfaces, there is a corrosive effect due to contamination of the aluminum with the steel.
Safety Risks of Unchecked Corrosion
Even mild corrosion, if left unchecked, can cause serious damage to an aircraft. This is because corrosion tends to spread bit by bit over time affecting large surface areas, especially when climate conditions encourage it.
Because corrosion breaks down the metal of the surfaces it affects, corrosion is a huge safety risk as well. Cracks, fissures and loss of tensile strength in the metal parts or surface of a plane mean that the plane will not be able to perform at optimal levels. Undetected corrosion can lead to leaks and drainage of vital fluids for a plane’s proper functioning and may even cause crashes or irreparable damage.
This is why it’s extremely important for pilots, mechanics and technicians to be aware of particularly corrosion-prone areas of a plane. These include external skin areas, which are readily visible, as well as exhaust and wing flaps, landing gear and places where water can easily become trapped and remain, such as low point drains. It’s also important to ensure that the engines and engine areas stay completely corrosion-free.
Using Aircraft Metal Polish for Corrosion Control
One of the best ways to address corrosion control is to find a suitable aircraft metal polish for cleaning and corrosion removal. Cleaning is especially important for removing the kind of dirt and debris that can cause corrosion, including bug debris. Bug debris can be particularly dangerous as chemical and acids from the internal fluids of insects can start the corrosive process if left to remain on metal surfaces.
Buffing in a good aircraft metal polish can also reduce the damaging affects of corrosion. Metal polish can remove heavy oxidation and help to smooth irregular surfaces caused by corrosion and can make the surface more amenable to protective coatings and paints. For best results, locate a versatile metal polish system that can both clean and remove corrosion as well a shine up your brightwork.