Stress-Corrosion Cracking of Aluminum Alloy Fittings in a Marine Atmosphere
During a routine inspection, cracks were discovered in several aluminum alloy (similar to either 2014 or 2017) coupling nuts on the fuel lines of a missile. The fuel lines had been exposed to a marine atmosphere for six months while the missile stood on an outdoor test stand near the seacoast. A complete check was then made, both visually and with the aid of a low-power magnifying glass, of all coupling nuts of this type on the missile. Investigation (visual inspection, spectrographic and chemical analysis, and metallographic examination) supported the conclusion that the cracking of the aluminum alloy coupling nuts was caused by stress corrosion. Contributing factors included use of a material that is susceptible to this type of failure, sustained tensile stressing in the presence of a marine (chloride-bearing) atmosphere, and an elongated grain structure transverse to the direction of stress. The elongated grain structure transverse to the direction of stress was a consequence of following the generally used procedure of machining this type of nut from bar stock. Recommendations included changing the materials specification for new coupling nuts for this application to permit use of only aluminum alloys 6061-T6 and T651 and 2024-T6, T62, and T851.