Aircraft corrosion can quickly become a very expensive headache for owners if not recognized and treated.
Or even worse, it can become a safety hazard if the corrosion causes aircraft damage by weakening the structural integrity of the metal.
If prevention sounds like a crucial part of maintaining an aircraft, it’s because it is. In only a few years corrosion can render an aircraft unairworthy.
Have no fear! This guide will ensure that you’re able to identify aircraft rust and take the necessary steps to treat the problem.
What Is Aircraft Corrosion?
The process is started when exposure to oxygen creates aluminum oxide. It’s the same process as iron rusting when iron oxide forms.
However, the aluminum used in aircraft doesn’t produce the recognizable red color of rusting iron.
Rusting aluminum will produce a dull gray or white color on the surface instead. From there it will grow into pitting and eventually break the metal down completely.
Types of Corrosion
Uniform surface attacks and filiform corrosion are the most common types of corrosion in aircraft. Both are recognized by the bubbling and flaking of paint. This is caused by the corroding metal underneath.
Stress corrosion is harder to spot and often found in landing gear and engine crankshafts. In fact, crankshaft failures are typically caused by this type of corrosion.
Crevice corrosion can also be difficult to spot. It’s caused when moisture or other pollutants become trapped in areas like lapped skin joints and rivets.
Intergranular corrosion is the least common but affects zinc-heavy, high-strength parts. Once this type of corrosion occurs, typical aircraft repair of rust isn’t an option. The parts must be completely replaced.
Corrosion Prevention and Repair
Regularly washing and drying the craft then storing it in a dry location is the best way to prevent aircraft corrosion. Hangers and cabin covers will protect from the elements, and washing will remove corrosive agents.
Making sure that windows and doors are sealed will help prevent moisture in the interior. Any chipped paint should also be treated regularly to protect the metal underneath from moisture.
Removing the corrosion altogether is the only treatment once corrosion has occurred. Light corrosion can be removed by abrasion using steel brushes and stainless steel brushes.
After the removal of light corrosion apply a corrosion inhibitor, primer, and new paint to the area repaired.
Full replacement of the part is often the only solution for larger areas and severe corrosion. This is why prevention and early treatments are so important. Even corroding antennas can turn into a much bigger problem over time.
Avoid a Corroded Aircraft
Whether buying a used craft or maintaining your own, now you know that avoiding aircraft corrosion is essential and not something to put off.
Propper maintenance and storage can help you avoid the problem altogether, and the early removal of corrosion can prevent spreading and save you money on repairs and part replacements.
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