The Materials and Processes Laboratory at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center has partnered with the Aviation Engineering Directorate of the U.S. Army’s Aviation and Missile Research, Development, and Engineering Center to conduct failure analysis on helicopter parts. Using Marshall’s capabilities in metallurgy, the lab analyzed aircraft components such as engine parts, swash plates, and fasteners from Army helicopters that flew in the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was found that the parts all experienced some type of failure with metal castings, forgings, or extrusions. To reach those results, the helicopter parts were analyzed at Marshall using high-powered microscopes to uncover the cause of the problems, since most of the problems couldn’t be seen with the naked eye. NASA also used fractography to characterize the fracture surfaces of the parts. They then took photos of the part, documented it, and dissected it for more in-depth study.
According to Tim Vaughn, chief of Marshall’s Metals Engineering Branch, “The tests we are conducting in this lab are saving lives. If we can find things to make the parts perform better, then we are making it safer for these Army helicopter pilots and soldiers being ferried, too.”
For more information, visit: www.nasa.gov/vision/earth/improvingflight/copter_parts.html .