Repair of Wood Aircraft Components (Part Two)

in Aircraft Wood and Structural Repair

Wing Spar Repairs

Wood wing spars are fabricated in various designs using solid wood, plywood, or a combination of the two. [Figure 6-21]

Figure 6-21. Typical splice repair of solid rectangular spar.

Figure 6-21. Typical splice repair of solid rectangular spar. [click image to enlarge]

When a spar is damaged, the method of repair must conform to the manufacturer’s instructions and recommendations. In the absence of manufacturer’s instructions, contact the FAA for advice and approval before making repairs to the spar and following recommendations in AC 43.13-1. If instructions are not available for a specific type of repair, it is highly recommended that you request appropriate engineering assistance to evaluate and provide guidance for the intended repair.

Shown in Figure 6-22 is a recommended method to repair either a solid or laminated rectangle spar. The slope of the scarf in any stressed part, such as a spar, should not be steeper than 15 to 1.

Figure 6-22. Typical splice repair of solid rectangular spar.

Figure 6-22. Typical splice repair of solid rectangular spar. [click image to enlarge]

Unless otherwise specified by the aircraft manufacturer, a damaged spar may be spliced at almost any point except at wing attachment fittings, landing gear fittings, engine mount fittings, or lift-and-interplane strut fittings. These fittings may not overlap any part of the splice. The reinforcement plates of the splice should not interfere with the proper attachment or alignment of the fittings. Taper reinforcement plates on the ends at a 5:1 slope [Figure 6-23].

Figure 6-23. Tapered faceplate.

Figure 6-23. Tapered faceplate.

The use of a scarf joint to repair a spar or any other component of an aircraft is dependent on the accessibility to the damaged section. It may not be possible to utilize a scarf repair where recommended, so the component may have to be replaced. A scarf must be precisely cut on both adjoining pieces to ensure an even thin glue line; otherwise, the joint may not achieve full strength. The primary difficulty encountered in making this type of joint is obtaining the same bevel on each piece. [Figure 6-24]

Figure 6-24. Beveled scarf joint.

Figure 6-24. Beveled scarf joint.

The mating surfaces of the scarf must be smooth. You can machine smooth a saw cut using any of a variety of tools, such as a plane, a joiner, or a router. For most joints, you need a beveled fixture set at the correct slope to complete the cut. Figure 6-25 illustrates one method of producing an accurate scarf joint.

Figure 6-25. Making a scarf joint.

Figure 6-25. Making a scarf joint.

Once the two bevels are cut for the intended splice, clamp the pieces to a flat guide board of similar material. Then, work a sharp, fine-tooth saw all the way through the joint. Remove the saw, decrease pressure, and tap one of the pieces on the end to close the gap. Work the saw again through the joint. Continue this procedure until the joint is perfectly parallel with matching surfaces. Then, make a light cut with the grain, using a sharp plane, to smooth both mating surfaces.

Another method of cutting a scarf uses a simple scarf-cutting fixture that you can also fabricate for use with a router. Extend the work piece beyond the edge so the finished cut results in a feathered edge across the end of the scarf. [Figure 6-26]

Figure 6-26. Scarf cutting fixture.

Figure 6-26. Scarf cutting fixture.

There are numerous tools made by individuals, and there are commercial plans for sale with instructions for building scarfcutting tools. Most of them work, but some are better than others. The most important requirement for the tool is that it produces a smooth, repeatable cut at the appropriate angle.

Local damage to the top or bottom edge of a solid spar may be repaired by removing the damaged portion and fabricating a replacement filler block of the same material as the spar. Full width doublers are fabricated as shown and then all three pieces are glued and clamped to the spar. Nails or screws should not be used in spar repairs. A longitudinal crack in a solid spar may be repaired using doublers made from the proper thickness plywood. Care must be taken to ensure the doublers extend the minimum distance beyond the crack. [Figure 6-27]

Figure 6-27. A method to repair damage to solid spar.

Figure 6-27. A method to repair damage to solid spar. [click image to enlarge]

A typical repair to a built-up I spar is illustrated using plywood reinforcement plates with solid wood filler blocks. As with all repairs, the reinforcement plate ends should be feathered out to a 5:1 slope. [Figure 6-28]

Figure 6-28. Repairs to a built-up I spar.

Figure 6-28. Repairs to a built-up I spar. [click image to enlarge]

Repair methods for the other types of spar illustrated at the start of this section all follow the basic steps of repair. The wood used should be of the same type and size as the original spar. Always splice and reinforce plywood webs with the same type of plywood as the original. Do not use solid wood to replace plywood webs because plywood is stronger in shear than solid wood of the same thickness. The splices and scarf cuts must be of the correct slope for the repair with the face grain running in the same direction as the original member. Not more than two splices should be made in any one spar.

When a satisfactory repair to a spar cannot be accomplished, the spar should be replaced. New spars may be obtained from the manufacturer or the holder of a PMA for that part. An owner-produced spar may be installed provided it is made from a manufacturer-approved drawing. Care should be taken to ensure that any replacement spars accurately match the manufacturer’s original design.

Bolt and Bushing Holes

All bolts and bushings used in aircraft structures must fit snugly into the holes. If the bolt or bushing is loose, movement of the structure allows it to enlarge the hole. In the case of elongated bolt holes in a spar or cracks in close proximity to the bolt holes, the repair may require a new section to be spliced in the spar, or replacement of the entire spar.

All holes drilled in a wood structure to receive bolts or bushings should be of such size that inserting the bolt or bushing requires a light tapping with a wood or rawhide mallet. If the hole is so tight that heavy blows are necessary, deformation of the wood may cause splitting or unequal load distribution.

For boring accurate smooth holes, it is recommended that a drill press be utilized where possible. Holes should be drilled with sharp bits using slow steady pressure. Standard twist drills can be used in wood when sharpened to a 60° angle. However, a better designed drill was developed for wood boring called a lip and spur or brad point. The center of the drill has a spur with a sharp point and four sharp corners to center and cut rather than walk as a conventional drill sometimes does. It has the outside corner of the cutting edges leading, so that it cuts the periphery of the hole first and maximizes the chance that the wood fibers cut cleanly, leaving a smooth bore.

Forstner bits bore precise, flat bottomed holes in wood, in any orientation with respect to the wood grain. They must be used in a drill press because more force is needed for their cutting action. Also, they are not designed to clear chips from the hole and must be pulled out periodically to do this. A straight, accurate bore-through hole can be completed by drilling through the work piece and into a piece of wood backing the work piece.

All holes bored for bolts that are to hold fittings in place should match the hole diameter in the fitting. Bushings made of steel, aluminum, or plastic are sometimes used to prevent crushing the wood when bolts are tightened. Holes drilled in the wood structure should be sealed after being drilled. This can be accomplished by application of varnish or other acceptable sealer into the open hole. The sealer must be allowed to dry or cure thoroughly prior to the bolts or bushings being installed.