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The purpose of this investigation was to determine the root cause of the differences noted in the fatigue test data of main rotor spindle assembly retaining rods fabricated from three different vendors, as part of a Second Source evaluation process. ARL performed dimensional verification, accessed overall workmanship, and measured the respective surface roughness of the rods in an effort to identify any discrepancies. Next, mechanical testing was performed, followed by optical and electron microscopy, and chemical analysis. Finally, ARL performed laboratory heat treatments at the required aging temperature and follow-up mechanical testing.

Helicopter rotor blade components that included the horizontal hinge pin, the associated nut, and the locking washer were examined. Visual examination of the submitted parts revealed that the hinge pin, fabricated from 4340 steel, was broken and that the fracture face showed a flat beach mark pattern indicative of a preexisting crack. The threaded area of the pin had an embedded thread that did not appear to come from the pin. A chemical analysis was conducted on the embedded thread and on an associated attachment to determine the origin of the thread. Analysis showed that the thread and nut were 4140 steel. Scanning electron fractographic examination of the fracture initiation site strongly suggested that the fracture progressed by fatigue. It was concluded that the failure of the horizontal hinge pin initiated at areas of localized corrosion pits. The pits in turn initiated fatigue cracks, resulting in a failure mode of corrosion fatigue. It was recommended that all of the horizontal hinge pins be inspected. Those pins determined to be satisfactory for further use should be stripped of cadmium, shot peened, and coated with cadmium to a minimum thickness of 0.0127 mm (0.0005 in.).

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