Do rivets on airframe need a dedicated sealant, e.g. epoxy, to be really airtight on a pressurized airliner, or is the expansion of the rivet shaft already sufficient?

As a side note, how are carbon fiber panels joined with aluminum or titanium panels?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Just FYI its best to ask one question per each posting - they're related questions, but different. $\endgroup$
    – Criggie
    Commented Jan 20, 2019 at 21:49

1 Answer 1


I banged rivets on a production line long ago. The countersunk rivets used in the pressure hull depend on expansion of the shaft, but some rivets also have a slightly larger radius where the shank flares out into the head compared to a standard flush rivet, which forms a tighter seal when the rivet is set.

You don't actually apply sealant to the rivet itself. The sealant, which is a crazy-sticky goo stuff (not epoxy, it cures to a hard rubber consistency), gets everywhere when you are shooting rivets on the pressure hull because the faying surfaces (the overlapping metal to metal surfaces) are coated in sealant before assembly, which gets in the rivet holes (the sealant is a pain in many ways; it acts like a lubricant if it gets on the skinny end of the rivet and makes it easy to dump the rivet over when you buck it).

Carbon fiber panels are usually joined to metal with bolts or Hi Lites or similar rivets, with some sort of insert or doubler of stainless or titanium in the carbon to distribute the loads. Sandwich floor panels for example, typically use a titanimum insert bedded into the sandwich with epoxy resin, through which the fastener goes. Carbon against titanium is fine, but if joining carbon to aluminum, you MUST have an insulating material to separate them because they live at opposite ends of the galvanic scale. Carbon touching aluminum = lots of corrosive fun.

  • 10
    $\begingroup$ Back in the day when cigarette smoking was allowed on most airliners, the pressurized ones would leak until they had a few months of flying time on them. when torn down for repair and inspection it was discovered that the leaky seams in the pressure hull were caulked tight with condensed cigarette smoke... $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 20, 2019 at 19:22
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Yes basically the same as sealing your driveway cracks with tar. Cigarette tar played havoc with outflow valves, but the most damage was done to avionics. $\endgroup$
    – John K
    Commented Jan 20, 2019 at 22:56
  • $\begingroup$ were you an avionics tech? what planes did you service? $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 21, 2019 at 5:02
  • $\begingroup$ No I was a hydromech engineering guy and also did some flying. CRJs. Retired now. $\endgroup$
    – John K
    Commented Jan 21, 2019 at 5:32
  • $\begingroup$ @JohnK If the carbon is in contact with titanium and titanium then touches aluminum, wouldn't it still corrode because titanium is a conductor as well and the cell is completed? $\endgroup$
    – Mridul
    Commented Oct 6, 2021 at 8:25

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .