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Thread: Contaminated glycol grounds 615 Sqn - Aug 1941

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    Default Contaminated glycol grounds 615 Sqn - Aug 1941

    I have just read a note in the ORB for this squadron, that they were experiencing a number of engine failures and aircraft losses due to "contaminated glycol". In early August, the squadron was grounded as they tried to sort out the problem.

    Was this a common problem and what would contaminate glycol?

    My subject, P/O Arthur Stephen, crashed due to engine failure in early July. Several other e/f incidents are recorded prior to the apparent discovery of the contamination. So I am thinking it was possible his a/c crashed for the same reason.
    David

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    Still trying to suss this one out. I have found references to glycol contamination of engine oil, which apparently causes a mechanical breakdown over time. But the ORB reference expressly stated that it was the coolant itself that was contaminated. Has anyone heard of this and what effect does it have on the a/c engine? I now a glycol leak would cause overheating and failure.

    Was it a fairly common thing? It was serious enough that they grounded the squadron for a time while 605 Sq assumed their patrol duties.
    Last edited by dfuller52; 2nd November 2010 at 13:50. Reason: missing part of setence
    David

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    P/O Andrew Arthur Stephen was Hurricane V6626 on 11 Jul 1941

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    Thanks Paul, you are correct. He experienced engine failure at 18,000 feet and instead of limping into the nearest air base he decided to try a beach landing near Nefyn. The plane's wing hit a boulder and flipped into the water where Arthur drowned.

    I know WW2 a/c were prone to engine failure at times due to wear and mechanical defects and I assume these Hurricane Is were getting long in the tooth by this time (the ORB reports Mk IIs just coming on stream), so I thought little more of the incident until I read the entry in the ORB which reports a problem with the squadron's glycol supply. I am now wondering if his Hurricane was the first of several to suffer from this problem, which was only discovered later.

    I noticed this info in the Wikipedia entry on the Hurricane Mk IIs:

    Hurricane Mk I powered by the improved Merlin XX engine. This new engine used a mix of 30 per cent glycol and 70 per cent water. Pure glycol is flammable, so not only was the new mix safer, but the engine also ran approximately 70°C cooler, which gave longer engine life and greater reliability.
    David

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    RAF Valley, the squadron's base on Anglesey, was built next to sand dunes and there were big problems with engine wear caused by blowing sand. How it would affect glycol, I don't know but maybe there is a connection.

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    Thanks Dave, that's very interesting. Does anyone know where in the AIR files I might find more on this type of problem. Were there separate logs kept for the maintenance units?
    David

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    Dave

    This para from Alec Harvey-Bailey’s “The Merlin in perspective – the combat years” (RRHT 1981) might throw some light:

    “The introduction of pressure cooling had some side effects. The Merlin had always used Parkerised mild steel coolant pipes, but as soon as pressure cooling came in corrosion failures of the pipes occurred. Very small quantities of sulphuric acid were found in the cooling systems and while it was at first thought to be sabotage, it turned out to be no more sinister than coolant being drained into carboys as a convenient container, but retaining an acid residue. In a number of squadrons the bulk coolant supply thus became contaminated. The cure was to fit brass or Tungum coolant pipes but it did alert us quickly to the deterioration of glycol water mixtures and the rapid corrosion effects at electrolytic couples, formed by the junction of dissimilar metals. This led to the introduction of inhibited coolants and regular testing to control acidity.”

    HTH
    Niall

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    Well Niall, you certainly seemed to have cracked it... my only question is one of timing and dates. The para you cite mentions glycol/water mixture, which according to the Wiki note was used on the new Merlins in the Mk IIs. The Hurricanes at 615 Sqn were Mk Is, which, I presume, were using just glycol.

    The squadron was just starting to introduce Mk IIs in the spring of '41 so is it possible that the contamination you cite could have occurred that quickly - between April and August, when the notation shows up? And would it have applied to the Mk IIs only?
    David

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    I presume the quote from Wikipedia below is in error in the opening sentence "Hurricane Mk. I powered by the improved Merlin Mk. XX engine ...." in that it should read Hurricane Mk. II.
    However I find the statement that the new coolant mixture caused the engine to run some 70 degrees cooler. That cannot be correct, as presumably the earlier engine was running at the correct temperature in the first place. To knock the temperature down that much would be disastrous, as the engine would be so cool as to not function to normal specification, and would in effect be way below "optimum working temperature". Aero engines in WW2 did not run at temperatures hugely different from those in motor cars today, although I know when I worked in a garage that it was common knowledge that the engines of motor cars in the 1930s/50s were operated at temperatures which they later realized were below the ideal and an increase in operating temperature (probably brought about by a higher-rated thermostat) improved their performance and economy considerably.


    Quote Originally Posted by dfuller52 View Post
    Thanks Paul, you are correct. He experienced engine failure at 18,000 feet and instead of limping into the nearest air base he decided to try a beach landing near Nefyn. The plane's wing hit a boulder and flipped into the water where Arthur drowned.

    I know WW2 a/c were prone to engine failure at times due to wear and mechanical defects and I assume these Hurricane Is were getting long in the tooth by this time (the ORB reports Mk IIs just coming on stream), so I thought little more of the incident until I read the entry in the ORB which reports a problem with the squadron's glycol supply. I am now wondering if his Hurricane was the first of several to suffer from this problem, which was only discovered later.

    I noticed this info in the Wikipedia entry on the Hurricane Mk IIs:

    Hurricane Mk I powered by the improved Merlin XX engine. This new engine used a mix of 30 per cent glycol and 70 per cent water. Pure glycol is flammable, so not only was the new mix safer, but the engine also ran approximately 70°C cooler, which gave longer engine life and greater reliability.

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    Sorry David, I was too perfunctory in my editing... the paragraph was referring to the Mk II and described it as a Mk I with the new Merlin XX installed.
    David

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