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A hollow, splined alloy steel aircraft shaft (machined from an AMS 6415 steel forging – approximately the same composition as 4340 steel – then quenched and tempered to a hardness of 44.5 to 49 HRC) cracked in service after more than 10,000 h of flight time. The inner surface of the hollow shaft was exposed to hydraulic oil at temperatures of 0 to 80 deg C (30 to 180 deg F). Analysis (visual inspection, 15-30x low magnification examination, 4x light fractograph, chemical analysis, hardness testing) supported the conclusions that the shaft cracked in a region subjected to severe static radial, cyclic torsional, and cyclic bending loads. Cracking originated at corrosion pits on the smoothly finished surface and propagated as multiple small corrosion-fatigue cracks from separate nuclei. The originally noncorrosive environment (hydraulic oil) became corrosive in service because of the introduction of water into the oil. Recommendations included taking additional precautions in operation and maintenance to prevent the use of oil containing any water through filling spouts or air vents. Also, polishing to remove pitting corrosion (but staying within specified dimensional tolerances) was recommended as a standard maintenance procedure for shafts with long service lives.

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