What Is Aircraft Fatigue and How Can It Be Combated?

While aircraft are advanced vehicles with extremely durable systems and parts, they will still face wear and tear over time as a result of the various stressors and forces they face during typical flight operations. One issue that aircraft will face is fatigue, that of which can eventually lead to equipment and structural failure if not treated. Aircraft fatigue is most often faced by metal airframes, causing structures to slowly weaken. While fatigue is not completely preventable, it can be deterred to extend the periods between servicing through various common techniques.

As aircraft become fatigued over a long period of time, damage will first begin in the form of microscopic cracks that manifest across metallic structures and elements. While these small cracks are minor problems at first, they will continue to grow and expand with continued operations and stress until they are very noticeable. Fatigue will often take hold after the very first flight an aircraft undertakes as corrosion and other issues begin. While most problems may be treatable, the difficulty rises as aircraft continue to age and become damaged. This is why most aircraft have a manufacturer calculated age of retirement, that of which is when enough flight cycles have been conducted to warrant retirement for safety as the aircraft will not be able to effectively sustain the standard rigors of flight.

If fatigue is ignored for a long period of time, corrosion and fatigue will work together to eat away at structures until failure occurs. Such impending failure is not always noticeable to the eye, and having engine parts or propeller parts that are ready to break down is extremely hazardous. Cracks are what typically cause large-scale damage and danger, as they can quickly split wider under the stress of G force, leading to peeling aircraft skin, parts breaking off mid-flight, and much more.

One of the best ways to avoid the dangers associated with aircraft fatigue is to track its progression. With modern methods of aircraft fatigue testing, pilots and operators can get an accurate picture of how much time a particular component or structure has before fatigue may cause major damage. To do this, a measurable factor known as the Limit of Validity (LOV) is used as a comparison. The LOV is the number of flight cycles or flight hours that an airframe can typically take on before structural failure, and this value is obtained through ample testing and research conducted by the manufacturer. While LOV comparisons are helpful, they are also mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for proper documentation. Additionally, operators are encouraged to utilize FAA issued airworthiness directives to maintain the airworthiness of their aircraft.

Beyond testing, inspections are a tried and true way of preventing failure by fatigue, and there are a number of tests that inspectors can conduct to guarantee safety. Depending on the equipment on hand, tests may range from ultrasound inspections to emitting eddy currents through metal surfaces to capture irregularities. If you find yourself in need of spare parts for maintenance or tools to conduct fatigue testing, let the experts at Purchasing 3Sixty fulfill all you require with time and cost savings.

Purchasing 3Sixty is a premier distribution platform for parts catering to a diverse set of applications and industries, and we currently have over 2 billion items ready for purchase on our website. Dedicated to quality, we choose to only source items from leading global manufacturers we trust, and countless items undergo measures ranging from visual inspections to third-party testing prior to shipment. As a result of our efforts, we operate with AS9120B, ISO 9001:2015, and FAA AC 00-56B accreditation. See why customers choose to shop at Purchasing 3Sixty when you get in touch with a representative!


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