Hydrogen Embrittlement of Aircraft Components
Brittle intergranular fracture, typical of a hydrogen-induced delayed failure, caused the failure of an AISI 4340 Cr-Mo-Ni landing gear beam. Corrosion resulting from protective coating damage released nascent hydrogen, which diffused into the steel under the influence of sustained tensile stresses. A second factor was a cluster of non-metallic inclusions which had ‘tributary’ cracks starting from them. Also, eyebolts broke when used to lift a light aircraft (about 7000 lb.). The bolt failure was a brittle intergranular fracture, very likely due to a hydrogen-induced delayed failure mechanism. As for the factors involved, cadmium plating, acid pickling, and steelmaking processes introduce hydrogen on part surfaces. As a second contributing factor, both bolts were 10 Rc points higher in hardness than specified (25 Rc), lessening ductility and notch toughness. A third factor was inadequate procedure, which resulted in bending moments being applied to the bolt threads.