Fatigue Fracture of an Aircraft Wheel Half That Was Initiated at a Subsurface Defect
The flange on an outboard main-wheel half (aluminum alloy 2014-T6 forging) on a commercial aircraft fractured during takeoff. The failure was discovered later during a routine enroute check. The flange section that broke away was recovered at the airfield from which the plane took off and was thus available for examination. Failure occurred after 37 landings (about 298 roll km, or 185 roll miles). Examination of the fracture surfaces revealed that a forging defect was present in the wall of the wheel half. The anodized coating showed distinct twin-parallel and end-grain patterns between which the fracture occurred. The periphery of the defect was the site of several small fatigue cracks that eventually progressed through the remaining wall. Rapid fatigue then progressed circumferentially. Metallographic examination using Keller's reagent showed that the microstructure was normal for aluminum alloy 2014-T6 and the hardness surpassed the minimum hardness required for aluminum alloy 2014-T6. An abrupt change in the direction of grain flow across the fracture plane indicated that the wall had buckled during forging. This evidence supported the conclusion that the wheel half failed in the flange by fatigue as the result of a rather large subsurface forging defect. No recommendations were made.