The Blade Tip Timing (BTT) method uses the differential arrival timings of the blades at case-mounted sensors to effectively characterize the vibrations of all blades in a rotor. This paper studies the use of the BTT method for preemptive prediction of rotor blade damage; through a careful monitoring of blade natural frequencies in conjunction with the blade tip position during an engine test. In the current study, the low pressure turbine stage of a developmental aero engine is instrumented with a combination of eddy current and optical sensors located circumferentially on the casing. This instrumentation effectively captures the engine order resonances of interest for the blade bending mode. During one of the normal engine tests, one of the blades in the LPT stage suddenly showed a drop in natural frequency beyond the allowable scatter and an abrupt change in the blade tip position. As the engine test was continued further, this drop in blade natural frequency and change in blade tip position progressively increased towards blade failure limits. Suspecting a propagating crack in the particular blade, the test was aborted and the engine was withdrawn for detailed inspection. Inspection of the rotor blades confirmed the presence of significant aero-foil crack in the suspect blade.

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