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Cracks were discovered in the cast 17-4 PH stainless steel outboard leading edge flap support of an aircraft wing during overhaul inspection. Failure analysis focused on an apparently intergranular area of fracture surface. It was determined that the original mode of crack growth was cleavage, probably caused by cast-in hydrogen. The intergranular appearance resulted from heat treatment of the already cracked part, which caused the formation of grain-boundary “growth figures” on the exposed crack surfaces. It was recommended that the castings be more closely inspected for defects before further processing and that foundry practices be reviewed to correct deficiencies leading to excessive hydrogen absorption during melting and casting.

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