Friday, January 16, 2009

My Former Life

Most likely a bunch of you have heard about the plane crash in the Hudson river caused by the engines ingesting a bird and becoming disabled.

One of the things I used to work on back in my days in good ole' Massachusetts was aircraft engines. I primarily worked on military applications. I helped with exhaust design on the F404 - the engine used in the Stealth Fighter. I also covered engine tests on the F414 engine used in the F/A-18 Super Hornet.

Sometimes, the job was pretty cool.

Occasionally, the folks on our team got to witness "Bird Ingestion" testing. Just so you know, these types of events are accounted for in engine design. It's not like nobody ever thought that a bird would get sucked into the engine inlet. The intent is for the engine to avoid failure or fail in a non-catastrophic manner.

One of my co-workers covered a test where, let's just say, things did not go as planned.

During these tests, bird carcasses are fired from an air-cannon into a stationary rig where the engine is running. This is done to simulate an engine mounted in its airframe in flight. On this particular test, the first bird was fired into the engine inlet and it completely destroyed the engine. It was like a bomb hit it.

Military aircraft engines are quite expensive. LDO.

Apparently, the test operator forgot to thaw out the frozen bird carcass. Not good.


Jordan said...

This very subject (the turkey gun used to test airplane parts for durability in case of a bird-collission) was discussed in a recent episode of Myth Busters. It was a recap episode that covered the 10-Ten Myths and one of them involved the turkey gun (or was it chicken). The US military used it to test windsheilds; the UK government asked to borrow one of the turkey guns for its own tests and then after testing it, wrote back to the US complaining that the gun broke every windshield without fail. The US had to remind the UK to defrost the birds as well. Lemon!

Anonymous said...

Hilarious story. I just hope no one was hurt in the explosion!