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Abstract

A helicopter lost the outboard rib on a tail rotor blade in flight and was forced to land because of the resulting vibrations. The investigation that followed is described in this chapter along with key findings. As shown in a sketch, the rib is held in place by a set of six rivets. All of the rivets on the failed blade were missing and sections of skin were torn from most of the rivet holes. One such rivet hole was examined in a SEM, revealing corrosion on one of the tear surfaces and dimples (characteristic of ductile overload failure) on the other. In addition, the inner surface of the skin nearest the rib was found to be coated with soot, the paint on the leading edge of the top skin was abraded, and the skin in that area had thinned. Based on their findings, investigators concluded that the outboard rib separated because of stress-corrosion cracking around the rivets, and erosion may have contributed.

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Failure of a Tail Rotor Blade in a Helicopter, Failure Analysis of Engineering Structures: Methodology and Case Histories, By V. Ramachandran, A.C. Raghuram, R.V. Krishnan, S.K. Bhaumik, ASM International, 2005, p 107–109, https://doi.org/10.31399/asm.tb.faesmch.t51270107

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