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I see this GIF animation a few times then I wonder how many fastener can an aircraft lose before it becomes dangerous. I’m sure losing one wouldn’t be an issue due to safety margin built into every component of aircraft. But how many fastener?

enter image description here

Original link https://www.gifng.com/wtf/65633/

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There is no straight answer as it depends on the individual fastener and specific aircraft in question. Pressurized aircraft create a whole new set of issues.

In some cases you can lose a whole bunch of them and even lose a full panel without issue as was the case on Delta 2412. While in other cases single bolts or fasteners are far more critical. Fasteners on stationary parts wont create the same imbalance issues as say, losing a fastener from a prop spinner or the such. Fasteners coming loose and being ingested into engines or other critical components can be an issue which is similar to the issue with the Concorde incident.

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It depends on aircraft type. Normally missed permanent fasteners are not allowed when found. But in some areas it is allowed to operate A/C with limited quantity of missing fasteners for limited time period (for example belly fairings on T7).

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  • $\begingroup$ Once flew in a Dak. As we walked round the back I saw that a row of elevator skin rivets along the trailing edge had been replaced by twisted wire. Said nothing to my Mum, who is terrified of flying. Many years later we found that each had noticed and kept quiet for the same reason. One assumes the (perfectly reputable) airline were not breaking regulations. $\endgroup$ – Guy Inchbald Mar 5 at 12:47
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Many might not like my answer, but from my perspective, its as follows.

Even if the aircraft loses all these wing fasteners, nothing will happen to the aircraft. Unless the loose panels or nuts find their way into the engine/Jet.

The wings are welded and form the primary structure of the aircraft, like a skeleton. These panels cover the Fuel tanks, Anti Freeze systems, Wiring, Mechanicals to the ailerons, mechanical cables, rods, radar and other systems installed in the wings. In addition, these panels aid in drag reduction, which helps with fuel efficiency.

If an aircraft loses any of such panels in flight, it just increases the drag and causes minor imbalance, when the crew need to act and reduce the speed accordingly to ensure no additional damage is caused to the internal materials. In most commercial aeroplanes, it mightn't cause drag too, because the wings shape is designed in such a way, there is no pressure on the wing from the top. The front end of the wing will be thicker and the thickness tapers down by the edge, where the wing meets the flaps.

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  • $\begingroup$ Vast majority of aircraft is not welded. Welding aluminium is difficult and being sure the joint has the required strength is also difficult. You are however right in that screws don't hold any essential structures—rivets (and a couple of bolts) do that (and it looks like a screw in the question). $\endgroup$ – Jan Hudec Feb 23 at 21:10
  • $\begingroup$ Most aluminum alloy airframes these days are adhesive bonded. Even more so with fibre composite structures. $\endgroup$ – Guy Inchbald Mar 5 at 12:43
  • $\begingroup$ The core uses some Iron. For Landing gear and others where the durability is of utmost importance. But Majoirty of the airplane is alloy. Mostly alluminium and rivetted into a structure. The Screws will rip the aluminium and would be used only for the alloy, which wouldnt rip itself. Wings and other parts bend and expand in flight. Screws will not hold such flexible pannels. Rivvets do. $\endgroup$ – kris Mar 20 at 7:36

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