Purpose – This paper aims to present some aspects associated with the life prediction of structures with fatigue cracks growing from small natural discontinuities in aluminium alloy (AA)7050‐T7451 for a surface condition that is present in F/A‐18 A/B aircraft critical structure. Design/methodology/approach – Fatigue results are presented for thick section AA7050 plate coupons loaded with a representative fighter aircraft wing root bending moment loading spectrum. Detailed quantitative fractography (QF) was used to gain a deeper understanding of issues relevant to an improved fatigue life predictive capacity for this material by using the QF results to investigate the “effectiveness” of the fatigue initiating discontinuities. Findings – Estimates of the “effectiveness” of the fatigue initiating discontinuities as quasi pre‐existing fatigue cracks (“equivalent pre‐crack size” (EPS) here) were made with the aid of a simple crack growth model. This model, based on experience, was found to be valid for the applied spectrum and stress levels used. These stress levels were chosen to represent those that may be found in highly stressed locations of fighter aircraft; and as such would usually lead to the limiting fatigue life of such a structure. Research limitations/implications – The method has been extended to other crack growth situations and is being used to build a database large enough to determine the best probability distribution of the “effectiveness” of the fatigue initiating discontinuities for not only the surface condition reported here but several other surface conditions typical of aircraft metallic structure. Practical implications – The EPS of the discontinuities from which the cracks grew were used to investigate distributions that may be used in a risk‐based assessment using deterministic crack growth measurements from such discontinuities. Some of the problems that remain to be resolved in such an analysis, prior to its use in a risk‐based assessment are discussed. Originality/value – This work improves the understanding of the interaction of small fatigue cracks generated by representative loading spectra with the small discontinuities from which they grow and shows that the fatigue process is remarkably consistent down to very small sizes.
International Journal of Structural Integrity – Emerald Publishing
Published: Aug 30, 2011
Keywords: Fatigue cracks; Aerospace engineering; Fatigue; Aluminium alloy; Alloys; Structural analysis; Aircraft