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I've heard that the engines on a commercial air transports are typically mounted with 2 or 3 bolts. Is this true? If so, how big are these bolts and what are they made of?

I'm optimizing a bolted joint for my FEA class, and I'd like to check my results against reality.

PS: The Factor of Safety on such a bolt would be nice too!

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On Sunday 4 October 1992, El Al Flight 1862 crashed into a suburb of Amsterdam after the right inboard engine separated from the wing and took part of the wing and the right outboard engine with it.

The separation was caused by fatigue fracture of the fuse-pins that connect the engine to the aircraft. The engines of the Boeing 747-200 are joined to the wing by four fuse-pins.

In the investigation report you can find detailed information about the construction that mounts the engine to the wing. Especially sections 1.6.3, 1.6.4 and 1.16 are of interest to you, although I recommend reading the entire report if you have the time.

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Source: Raad voor de Luchtvaart, document AAR 92-11

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Source: Raad voor de Luchtvaart, document AAR 92-11

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  • $\begingroup$ The report was a sad yet educational read. I found information on the pins' material (4330M steel) but not on its size. I tried finding that info in the "Investigation of the outboard midspar fuse pin" report that Luchtvaart cited, but I couldn't find the other report. Any idea on how big those pins are for a 747? $\endgroup$ – techSultan Nov 25 '15 at 16:59
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Engine mounts and thrust links

How are engines mounted onto wings?

Modern engines are hanged to the pylon struts fixed to the wings, at two mounts, using an attachment device named hanger fitting in the terminology of CFMI. This is how a CFM56-7B is mounted onto the wing of a Boeing 737 NG:

CFM56-7B attached onto the wing of a Boeing 737 NG
CFM56-7B on the wing of a Boeing 737 NG. Adapted from CFM56-7B nacelle training manual

The hangers are shown in red, they are fixed to the engine using links (magenta) and clevises either via the fan case fitting (forward mount, green), or directly (aft mount). Then they are fixed to the pylon / strut using bolts and shear pins.

Actual parts pictures (differences are due to improvements):

enter image description here
Engine fan frame fitting and aft hanger for a CFM56-7B. Source

Engine mounts have varied over years. While initially the engine thrust was carried over to the wing along the engine structure, the modern method is to avoid this as it has many disadvantages. It deforms the engine structure and prevents having reduced clearances between turbine tip and walls. This in turn leads to less than optimal engine efficiency.

On modern aircraft engines are mounted at two locations: The top of the fan frame and the top of the turbine frame. No stress is borne by other components.

Usually the forward mount (fan frame) receives both the vertical load and the thrust load and the aft mount receives the torque load. But in some cases, when the thrust load is not desirable on the front mount, thrust links are used to transfer the thrust load to the aft mount. This is the case for the Boeing 737 NG family.

Bolts and shear pins

I've heard that the engines on a commercial air transports are typically mounted with 2 or 3 bolts.

It's a bit difficult to count, because there are intermediary parts between the engine and the wing. To simplify we can focus on the two mounts and how they actually transfer thrust to the strut. In this case you are close to the truth.

In our example, the forward mount uses four bolts and two pins, the aft mount uses four bolts and a pin. The thrust load is mostly borne by the shear pins while the bolts take the vertical loads (e.g. engine weight and torque) and ensure the overall positioning.

For other combinations engine/aircraft the principle is the same, parts are slightly different, e.g. this is the forward mount for a CFM56-5B on an Airbus A320:

Forward mount of CFM56-5B on A320
CFM56-5B forward mount for A320. Source

There are 4 bolts and one shear pin (the other visible pin is for centering, and is used as a backup shear pin).

We can say the main force is transferred to the wing using 3 shear pins only, but don't forget the thrust links, and the bolts used to attach them, are part of the chain too.

Still 8 bolts are necessary to deal with other loads and to keep everything sticking together, and also to allow the shear pins to remain in place.

Bolts size and strength

How big are these bolts and what are they made of?

Bolts used for a CFM56-7B on a B737 NG have the part number BACB30PN14-32M in Boeing nomenclature. This bolt has a diameter of 22 mm (0.875") and is made of nickel alloy 718 a super alloy, also known as Inconel 718.

What bolts, barrel nuts and pins look like:

Aft mount CFM56-7B CFM56-7B aft mount. Source

The Factor of Safety on such a bolt would be nice too!

To have an idea of the forces involved it's good to know a Boeing 737 NG engine has a mass of about 2,000 kg, acting on the pylon in the form of a weight of 20 kN (mass x gravity acceleration). The engine generates about 100 kN of thrust. Even taking into account sudden vertical accelerations and hard landings (let's say 3 G), thrust is the main force acting on the pylon and the shear pins are more stressed than the bolts.

Nickel alloy 718 has a tensile strength of 180 N per mm², this gives each bolt a total strength of 70 kN. the 8 bolts together could sustain 560 kN, to be compared with the weight of the engine (20 kN) and thrust (100 kN).

The only event which can seemingly detach an engine from its pylon is a collision with the ground or the friction of the engine on the ground. In that case, the engine acts as a lever. The torque would break the bolts, and then the shear pins would freely escape from their holes.

Actual pictures

It's usually difficult to see the engines mounts when the engine is on the wing, as they are buried deep into the nacelle components. Click on the image to zoom.

Example:

Engine mounts on CFM56-7B
Engine mounts on CFM56-7B. Picture by Kostas Makris. Source

Details of the mounts:

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Example 2

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CFM56-7B. Source

Details of the mounts:

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Additional details of the CFM56-7B mounts, from the manual

Forward mount:

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Forward mount. Source: CFM56-7B Training Manual (nacelle)

  • The hanger fitting is fixed to the strut by 4 bolts and there are two shear pins to protect the bolts from shear loads.
  • The hanger fitting is fixed to the fan case fitting by 3 pawl pins
  • The fan case fitting is fixed by 10 bolts to the fan case

Aft mount:

enter image description here
Aft mount. Source: CFM56-7B Training Manual (nacelle)

  • The hanger fitting is fixed to the strut using 4 bolts and barrel nuts, protected by a shear pin.
  • The hanger fitting is fixed to clevisses on the turbine frame using 4 links using and 4 bolts.

Two thrust links transfer the thrust from the fan frame to the aft mount. There is an evener bar on the aft mount.

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    $\begingroup$ I think this is a much better answer than the accepted post, though it's been 4+ (!!!!) years since it was answered originally. $\endgroup$ – zymhan Jan 9 at 3:18
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You're correct that the engines are mounted to the aircraft using only a few bolts. Usually, the engines are mounted on the wing at three points (usually two forward and one aft) with shear (or fuse) pins, with one or two bolts at each point. The DC-10, for example 6 (later 8 pins), while the 747-200 has 6.

DC-10 engine mount

"DC-10 engine-pylon". Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

The following figure shows the engine mounting in A350 XWB, in which the aft mounting point and the load struts can be clearly seen (the first box), in which the engine is attached with two bolts.

A350 engine mount

Image from airliners.net

The shear pins have a complex cross section and are designed in such a way that it shears off in case of an impact. For example, the following figure shows the design of (three different) shear pins used in Boeing 747.

B747 fuse pin

Image from FAA overview of accident involving Israeli Airlines FLT 1862

The shear pin bolt size depends on the particular aircraft and the engine combination.

As for safety factor, they are designed to break off in case the (shear) loads on them cross a certain threshold. The engine-to-wing supporting structure is designed to release the engine when extreme forces are encountered, in order to prevent any structural damage to the wing that may impair the aircraft's ability to fly. As such, their design philosophy is different from safe load design and varies from aircraft to aircraft.

Incidents have happened where the engine has separated from the aircraft due to the large forces experienced.

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  • $\begingroup$ Is this one of the pins!?! imgur.com/PINsTMJ If so, that is small! Any idea how long that is? $\endgroup$ – techSultan Nov 25 '15 at 17:07
  • $\begingroup$ @techSultan those are rods that support the thrust reversers. The engine mounts are in the boxes to the right and left of that one, but you can't really see the pins for those. $\endgroup$ – fooot Nov 25 '15 at 20:30
  • $\begingroup$ I wonder why they need to design the shear pin to breAk when the force exceeds certain threshold. Is it required to keep the aircraft safe when it needs to have crash landing or anything else? $\endgroup$ – dingdingdong Nov 18 '19 at 1:01
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    $\begingroup$ @dingdingdong In the event of a choice between the engine falling off or the entire wing breaking off, you want it to be the former. Planes can fly without engines but not without wings. $\endgroup$ – StephenS Jan 3 at 4:22

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