Prior to deployment to Antarctica, an oil filter from a B757 RB211 aircraft engine was inspected, using an analysis system that was under development.
High quantities of wear debris, consistent with a mainline bearing issue, were discovered. The system provides a count of particles captured by the filter as well as identifying the material, and hence the parent component, from which the particles originate. Analysis indicated the bearing was degrading and failure was likely.
An alternate aircraft was deployed and the mission was completed successfully.
The suspect engine was removed and the bearing was replaced at minimal cost. Investigation showed approximately US$2.7 million of engine damage was avoided due to early discovery of the defective bearing.