Turbine Engine Lubrication Systems

Both wet- and dry-sump lubrication systems are used in gas turbine engines. Wet-sump engines store the lubricating oil in the engine proper, while dry-sump engines utilize an external tank mounted on the engine or somewhere in the aircraft structure near the engine, similar to reciprocating piston engines mentioned earlier.

Turbine engine’s oil systems can also be classified as a pressure relief system that maintains a somewhat constant pressure: the full flow type of system, in which the pressure varies with engine speed, and the total loss system, used in engines that are for short duration operation (target drones, missiles, etc.). The most widely used system is the pressure relief system with the full flow used mostly on large fan type engines. One of the main functions of the oil system in turbine engines is cooling the bearings by carrying the heat away from the bearing by circulating oil around the bearing.

The exhaust turbine bearing is the most critical lubricating point in a gas turbine engine because of the high temperature normally present. In some engines, air cooling is used in addition to oil cooling the bearing, which supports the turbine. Air cooling, referred to as secondary air flow, is cooling air provide by bleed air from the early stages of the compressor. This internal air flow has many uses on the inside of the engine. It is used to cool turbine disk, vanes, and blades. Also, some turbine wheels may have bleed air flowing over the turbine disk, which reduces heat radiation to the bearing surface. Bearing cavities sometimes use compressor air to aid in cooling the turbine bearing. This bleed air, as it is called,is usually bled off a compressor stage at a point where air has enough pressure but has not yet become too warm (as the air is compressed, it becomes heated).

The use of cooling air substantially reduces the quantity of oil necessary to provide adequate cooling of the bearings. Since cooling is a major function of the oil in turbine engines, the lubricating oil for bearing cooling normally requires an oil cooler. When an oil cooler is required, usually a greater quantity of oil is necessary to provide for circulation between the cooler and engine. To ensure proper temperature, oil is routed through either air-cooled and/or fuel-cooled oil coolers. This system is used to also heat (regulate) the fuel to prevent ice in the fuel.

Turbine Lubrication System Components

The following component descriptions include most found in the various turbine lubrication systems. However, since engine oil systems vary somewhat according to engine model and manufacturer, not all of these components are necessarily found in any one system.

Oil Tank

Although the dry-sump systems use an oil tank that contains most of the oil supply, a small sump is usually included on the engine to hold a small supply of oil. It usually contains the oil pump, the scavenge and pressure inlet strainers, scavenge return connection, pressure outlet ports, an oil filter, and mounting bosses for the oil pressure gauge and temperature bulb connections.

A view of a typical oil tank is shown in Figure 6-31. It is designed to furnish a constant supply of oil to the engine during any aircraft attitude. This is done by a swivel outlet assembly mounted inside the tank, a horizontal baffle mounted in the center of the tank, two flapper check valves mounted on the baffle, and a positive vent system.

The swivel outlet fitting is controlled by a weighted end that is free to swing below the baffle. The flapper valves in the baffle are normally open; they close only when the oil in the bottom of the tank tends to rush to the top of the tank during decelerations. This traps the oil in the bottom of the tank where it is picked up by the swivel fitting. A sump drain is located in the bottom of the tank. The vent system inside the tank is so arranged that the airspace is vented at all times even though oil may be forced to the top of the tank by deceleration of the aircraft.

All oil tanks are provided with expansion space. This allows expansion of the oil after heat is absorbed from the bearings and gears and after the oil foams as a result of circulating through the system. Some tanks also incorporate a deaerator tray for separating air from the oil returned to the top of the tank by the scavenger system. Usually these deaerators are the can type in which oil enters at a tangent. The air released

is carried out through the vent system in the top of the tank. In most oil tanks, a pressure buildup is desired within the tank to ensure a positive flow of oil to the oil pump inlet. This pressure buildup is made possible by running the vent line through an adjustable check relief valve. The check relief valve is usually set to relieve at about 4 psi, keeping positive pressure on the oil pump inlet. If the air temperature is abnormally low, the oil may be changed to a lighter grade. Some engines may provide for the installation of an immersion-type oil heater.