Helicopter flights in salt water environments and rinsing and washing helicopter engines and airframes with poor quality water containing minerals can lead to significant engine and airframe corrosion.
For example, in 2012, the U.S. Army National Guard (ARNG) incurred several costly over-and-above repairs due to corrosion on the engines of its Airbus UH-72A Lakota helicopters.
In September, 2013, the ARNG tested an XQ-1400 distilled water system by Turbo Pure Water for the D.C. National Guard fleet of Lakotas at Davison Army Airfield, Ft. Belvoir, Virginia. Turbo Pure Water, a division of the Nebraska-based Pure and Secure, LLC, provides water purification systems for corporate and government clients, including ARNG and U.S. Coast Guard helicopters.
After the Davison Army Airfield test proved successful, the Guard deployed the XQ-1400 Turbo Pure Water system for its Lakotas at 45 air bases in North America.
"The National Guard Bureau recognizes the importance of a water purification system for the UH-72 Lakota fleet," April Cunningham, a spokeswoman for the National Guard Bureau, wrote in a Dec. 21 email.
"The Lakota maintenance manual requires the use of de-mineralized water for all engine rinse/wash/flush actions," she wrote. "So, in 2012, we procured a distilled unit for the Lakota fleet to mitigate future engine and airframe corrosion-related issues. To date, all of our Lakota units have been fielded the XQ-1400 water purification system. However, we are not able to provide feedback from those facilities as to the pros and cons of its use, but there are no negative reports. It is important to note that there were only a few facilities with poor water quality that originally had issues."
In a Turbo Pure Water video, Army CW4 Rohn Legore, the fleet maintenance officer for the D.C. National Guard's 6 Lakotas, said that two of the Lakotas had experienced "quite a few corrosion problems" during a six month deployment to the U.S.-Mexico border in 2012. The water there contained a lot of sulfur, and when the D.C. National Guard got the aircraft back from Texas, there was "paint bubbling on the transmissions," "white powder on the turbine blades," and "corrosion in areas we'd never seen before."
The D.C. water supply contains minerals and the D.C. National Guard flies in salt water environments on missions on the East Coast, such as in New York, Legore said, but the XQ-1400 system has mitigated such issues, Legore said.
Turbo Pure Water said that the XQ-1400 is also in use for PHI, Inc.'s oil field commercial helicopters in Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, and Sierra Leone and for Shell Oil's helicopter operations in Barrow, Alaska.
The U.S. Army has used the twin-engine UH-72A for troop and light cargo transport, air medical, VIP transport, border security and homeland defense.