The US Army Research Laboratory performed a failure investigation on a broken main landing gear mount from an AH-64 Apache attack helicopter. A component had failed in flight, and initially prevented the helicopter from safely landing. In order to avoid a catastrophe, the pilot had to perform a low hover maneuver to the maintenance facility, where ground crews assembled concrete blocks at the appropriate height to allow the aircraft to safely touch down. The failed part was fabricated from maraging 300 grade steel (2,068 MPa [300 ksi] ultimate tensile strength), and was subjected to visual inspection/light optical microscopy, metallography, electron microscopy, energy dispersive spectroscopy, chemical analysis, and mechanical testing. It was observed that the vacuum cadmium coating adjacent to the fracture plane had worn off and corroded in service, thus allowing pitting corrosion to occur. The failure was hydrogen-assisted and was attributed to stress corrosion cracking (SCC) and/or corrosion fatigue (CF). Contributing to the failure was the fact that the material grain size was approximately double the required size, most likely caused from higher than nominal temperatures during thermal treatment. These large grains offered less resistance to fatigue and SCC. In addition, evidence of titanium-carbo-nitrides was detected at the grain boundaries of this material that was prohibited according to the governing specification. This phase is formed at higher thermal treatment temperatures (consistent with the large grains) and tends to embrittle the alloy. It is possible that this phase may have contributed to the intergranular attack. Recommendations were offered with respect to the use of a dry film lubricant over the cadmium coated region, and the possibility of choosing an alternative material with a lower notch sensitivity. In addition, the temperature at which this alloy is treated must be monitored to prevent coarse grain growth. As a result of this investigation and in an effort to eliminate future failures, ARL assisted in developing a cadmium brush plating procedure, and qualified two Army maintenance facilities for field repair of these components.
M.S. Pepi, Effects of Prior Processing on the Service Life of an 18% Nickel Maraging Steel Helicopter Landing Mount, ASM Failure Analysis Case Histories: Air and Spacecraft, ASM International, 2019, https://doi.org/10.31399/asm.fach.aero.c9001717
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