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The left wing landing gear forward trunnion sustained a complete through-section fracture during the pushback at Sydney International Airport as a result of fatigue cracks in the bore of the trunnion. The fatigue cracks originated at an internal bore diameter transition and developed until they intersected to form a single crack.

The development and growth of the fatigue cracks was attributed to three principal factors:

  • the wall thickness of the trunnion was below the minimum required by the manufacture specifications
  • the surface had machining marks in the surface at the radius
  • the inner surface of the bore had been inadequately shot peened.

The effect of the reduction in wall thickness was to increase the working stress in the component. This increase in working stress reduced the number of cycles required to produce and develop fatigue damage.

The radius at the transition in the trunnion bore diameter is a natural stress concentration point when the item is smooth, but the presence of the machining marks on the surface of this radius provided further stress concentration. This stress concentration further reduced the number of cycles required to produce and develop fatigue damage.

The lack of adequate shot peening likely had a two-fold detrimental effect on the trunnion fatigue life. Firstly, as the smooth regions in the bore showed, effective shot peening obliterated the machining marks. Those marks remained in the unpeened areas and thus presented an additional stress concentration. Secondly, the absence of adequate shot peening denied the component the fatigue life improving qualities that shot peening brings.

Because there were no entries in the maintenance documents regarding repairs in the internal bore and the blending of the shot peened and non-shot peened areas, it is likely that the trunnion wall thickness was below the minimum design limit and was inadequately shot peened during original manufacture.

The presence of multiple secondary fatigue cracks in the component, also emanating from the root of machining marks, further verified that the failure was not due to a single material defect. As such, it would be likely to occur in other trunnions, which do not have the machining marks obliterated by the shot peening process.

The varying nature of the corrosion within the fatigue cracks and the demarcation between the various regions suggested that the cracks had existed during several overhaul cycles of the component. During overhaul, the component was subjected to chemicals that had a corrosive effect on the material, but would not be readily flushed away from a tight crack. Therefore, it is likely that the crack was present in the component at the last overhaul. The fracture surface indicates that the crack was approximately 4mm long and 1.6mm deep at the last overhaul in 2001.

The component had undergone the manufacturer required inspections at overhaul and no cracks were detected. The Magnetic Particle Inspection (MPI) method used to check the item for defects such as cracks is sensitive enough to detect a crack much smaller than the one suspected to have existed at the last overhaul. Possible masking of crack indications by the machining marks or a lack of expectation by the operator to find cracks in the region may have contributed to any cracks not being detected by the MPI operator.

The machining marks in the surface of the part can give non-relevant indications4 of cracks. Those spurious indications may mask true indications of cracks. If the operator was not aware that the machining marks should not be present, they would be likely to discount them and pass the component.

The aircraft manufacturer provided standard practices in relation to the inspection method used. These practices were general and were to be used by maintainers in developing their component specific procedures. Neither the overhaul procedure for the trunnion nor the general MPI process specification directed the MPI operator's attention to the radius in the bore diameter transition. Therefore, the expectation for an operator's repair shop to find cracks in that region would be low.

Because the manufacture documentation for the particular component was destroyed in 1994, the investigation could not determine how the trunnion was manufactured and released in a state that did not conform to the manufacture drawings. The overhaul and service instructions for the trunnion did not provide a mechanism by which the non-conformances could be detected.

  1. Non-relevant indications are indications that are defect-like in appearance, but are due to the local geometry and features of the component. Heavy machining marks are one such
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