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What Is Aircraft Metal Fatigue and How To Prevent It?

All the metal components of an aircraft experience normal wear and tear due to repeated flight cycles. Consequently, you need to conduct regular inspection, maintenance and repair. If you need quality service repair or FAA-approved exhaust parts, visit Knisley Welding Inc. and fill out this form

Related article: General Aircraft Maintenance and Safety Tips

 

How does aircraft metal fatigue occur?

Due to extensive usage, metal components may develop cracks that usually appear microscopic at first. But over time, they become larger and more visible to the naked eye. 

As a general rule, older aircraft have more visible signs of fatigue as they have been exposed to atmospheric pressure, turbulence and other harsh elements longer than newer planes. For this reason, manufacturers decommission them after a specific number of flight cycles to promote safety and prevent catastrophic failures. 

Nonetheless, as an aircraft owner, you can extend the lifespan of your plane through routine maintenance, inspection and repair conducted by licensed technicians, manufacturers and FAA-approved parts suppliers like Knisley Welding Inc.

 

How to prevent or minimize aircraft fatigue failure?

To reiterate, regular inspections are one of the keys that can help prolong your aircraft’s life. Remember, when you identify “small” issues early on, it’s much easier to conduct a maintenance repair than if you wait for them to become a bigger problem. 

Licensed techniques use an ultrasonic probe that utilizes pulses of high-frequency sound energy to detect cracks on the surface and “subsurface.” Meanwhile, they move this device manually over a metal component to detect even the smallest and almost undetectable (to the naked eye) defects. 

Ultrasonic probes are also designed to detect corrosion, abrasions, pitting and cracking. 

Once the small defects have been identified, the technicians will start grinding and polishing the affected surface. The goal is to eliminate micro-defects, including scratches and gouges, asap because even the slightest imperfections are prone to corrosion caused by turbulence, flight pressure and other similar factors. 

Aside from inspection, routine maintenance conducted by the aircraft owner or pilot also prevents metal fatigue failure. This is why conducting a pre-flight assessment that includes the brakes, wheels, and oil and hydraulic fluid levels is important. 

As a general rule, aging planes (those that have covered many miles of flight time) need more frequent inspection and “heavier” monitoring and maintenance. 

 

Where aircraft fatigue cracks begin

Fatigue cracks primarily occur in these three areas: 

  • Around the edges of fastener holes, such as the bolts, screws and rivets, which receive a high level of stress
  • External areas–i.e., the aircraft skin which is constantly under pressure from the structural load
  • Internal areas or the load-bearing structural parts

The areas mentioned above contribute to the vast majority of aircraft metal fatigue because they are the most susceptible to high pressure, cracking, and other signs of wear and tear. 

Additionally, large components that are constantly moving during flight–such as the engine and exhaust system–are also prone to cracking.

Related articles: What happens during aircraft maintenance? | Why is it important to aircraft maintenance?

 

Final Word on Aircraft Fatigue

The external surface of your aircraft, its moving parts, engine and exhaust systems are prone to metal fatigue; that’s why you need regular maintenance and inspections to conduct “immediate” repair that prevents minor defects from becoming serious problems. 

If you need exhaust system repair or FAA-approved exhaust parts, visit Knisley Welding Inc. or call us at (800) 522-6990. We’re happy to hear from you. 

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