Hot & Cold

The benefits of multiviscosity aviation oils in any climate


From Alaska to Florida
Inlet Petroleum Company (IPC), the largest distributor of Phillips 66 Aviation Lubricants in the country, is based in Anchorage, AK, and is a firm believer in the power of multiviscosity oils. IPC, which services seasonal and year-round customers, understands the benefits of providing premium products and effective maintenance solutions that help keep planes running well and safely in the bitter cold, and multigrade oils fit in perfectly with that equation.

According to IPC, multiviscosity oils have been one of the most useful tools the company employs when servicing aircraft in the cold weather. The improved cold startup capabilities provided by these oils are a key performance attribute for plane maintenance in Alaska. It is generally accepted that a cold startup is considered to be anything below 60 F. However, an engine at rest is always cold relative to its normal operating temperatures; therefore, the oil is also thick relative to its designed operating viscosity. This makes a multigrade product a key advantage in the frigid climates of Alaska, which frequently experience temperatures much colder than that.

“Our customers use Phillips 66 multiviscosity aviation oils year round and operate in temperatures that can include minus 60 F in the winter,” says Joel Lawrence, marketing manager at Inlet Petroleum Company. “Our climate is the ultimate test for aviation lubricants and these oils prove to be superior time and time again.”

IPC can also take advantage of the fact that in subzero-type climates, before the implementation of multiviscosity oil, mechanics and aircraft owners were forced to drain their aircraft’s engine oil while it was still hot and house the oil at a temperature warm enough to maintain the continued flow of the straight grade oil at the next startup. Now, companies like IPC as well as aircraft mechanics can utilize multiviscosity oils, which allow the oil to remain in the engine not only after each use in freezing temperatures, but year-round, given proper maintenance and oil changes.

While IPC has experience dealing with reasonably warm temperatures at the peak of Alaska’s summer weather, the company can’t compare its familiarity in dealing with heat to the group of highly skilled mechanics and service people at Miami-based Propel Aviation Services. Propel is a full-service maintenance provider for Cessna and other passenger planes, routinely servicing almost every type of Cessna plane, from the smaller 152s to the 208-208B Caravans and the full range of Cessna twins.

As Propel knows very well, one of multiviscosity oil’s greatest strengths when maintaining planes in excruciatingly hot weather is the fact that the oil’s polymers resist thinning as temperatures skyrocket, which allows the product to retain its viscosity. One very specific benefit of using these oils in extreme heat is the ability to protect the ring belt. Given the superior film thickness and clean-burning properties of multiviscosity oils, it is far easier to preserve a clean ring belt area. This allows piston rings to seal against the ring land and cylinder wall, which results in better combustion control. Increased film thickness also prevents oil leakage past the piston rings, reducing buildup. In addition, a pilot will see cleaner crankcase and exhaust systems after switching to multiviscosity oil.

“Heat, humidity, and the fact that Florida is a high salt environment impacts an engine,” says Matt Lee, sales representative for Propel. “In terms of how the weather impacts us, we’re primarily concerned with condensation in the engine, which can cause corrosion, pitting, and more. To combat these problems, we ensure all our aircraft have proper oil levels, and we recommend multiviscosity products to guarantee proper lubrication, which lowers the chances that condensation will create problems.”

What multiviscosity oil means to you
Many advantages exist when using multiviscosity oil as the primary option when maintaining planes in any weather. From providing superior lubrication at cold startup to reducing oil consumption during the heat to maintaining cleaner exhaust systems, multigrade oil will keep aircraft running smoothly no matter what the thermometer reads.

Harold Tucker is the director of technical information and training, ConocoPhillips Commercial Lubricants.

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