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The interaction between corrosion management and structural integrity of aging aircraft


U. H. Tiong. E-mail:


Aircraft joints feature prominently in aircraft structural degradation; fatigue cracking and corrosion damage are major issues, which can reduce joint strength and degrade service life. Protecting the structure against corrosion usually involves use of highly developed protective coatings – paints and sealants – and, increasingly, the application of corrosion inhibiting compounds (CICs) which retard corrosion principally by penetrating into crevices and cracks, and displacing water. A combination of coatings and CIC use can provide effective corrosion protection, but both interact – in different ways – with joint structural performance and overall system durability. This paper discusses the interaction between these two corrosion protection measures and fatigue performance of joints. The first issue relates to the extent to which application of CICs (or other lubricants) can cause a reduction in the fatigue life of mechanically fastened joints. The CICs are lubricants which will reduce the friction at the faying surface of the joint, and change the load transfer characteristics of the joint. This paper discusses results from a test program assessing the fatigue life and failure mode of simple riveted lap joints; the results show a distinct reduction in fatigue life for joints containing CICs, and the paper discusses the changes thought to be responsible for the reduction. The second issue discussed is the degradation of protective coatings in service. Joints are key locations for coating cracking and failure, because areas such as sheet ends and fastener heads, where displacements are concentrated, may produce concentrated strain in coatings. So far, however, the potential influence of aircraft loading on coating degradation prognostics has received little attention. This paper discusses the role of joint displacement in service as a factor contributing to degradation in aircraft coatings at joints, and argues that this local strain effect, and indeed structural loading history, needs to be considered in predicting and assessing rates of coating degradation. It describes analyses of displacements in aircraft joints, to identify the levels of strain and to identify the roles and relative contributions of the various deflections in the joints. The results indicate the potential for very large strains in coatings.