Safetying Methods – Part One

in Aircraft Materials Processes and Hardware

To ensure fasteners do not separate from their nuts or holding ends, various safetying methods are used in aircraft from heavy aircraft to gliders to recreational aircraft.

Safetying is the process of securing all aircraft, bolts, nuts, screws, pins, and other fasteners so that they do not work loose due to vibration. A familiarity with the various methods and means of safetying equipment on an aircraft is necessary in order to perform maintenance and inspection.

There are various methods of safetying aircraft parts. The most widely used methods are safety wire, cotter pins, lockwashers, snaprings, and special nuts, such as self-locking nuts, pal nuts, and jamnuts. Some of these nuts and washers have been previously described in this chapter.


The three main types of pins used in aircraft structures are the taper pin, flathead pin, and cotter pin. Pins are used in shear applications and for safetying. Roll pins are finding increasing uses in aircraft construction.

Taper Pins

Plain and threaded taper pins (AN385 and AN386) are used in joints which carry shear loads and where absence of play is essential. The plain taper pin is drilled and usually safetied with wire. The threaded taper pin is used with a taper pin washer (AN975) and shear nut (safetied with a cotter pin or safety clip) or self-locking nut.

Flathead Pin

Commonly called a clevis pin, the flathead pin (MS20392) is used with tie rod terminals and in secondary controls which are not subject to continuous operation. The pin is customarily installed with the head up so that if the cotter pin fails or works out, the pin will remain in place.

Cotter Pins

The AN380 cadmium plated, low carbon steel cotter pin is used for safetying bolts, screws, nuts, other pins, and in various applications where such safetying is necessary. The AN381 corrosion resistant steel cotter pin is used in locations where nonmagnetic material is required, or in locations where resistance to corrosion is desired.

Roll Pins

The roll pin is a pressed fit pin with chamfered ends. It is tubular in shape and is slotted the full length of the tube. The pin is inserted with hand tools and is compressed as it is driven into place. Pressure exerted by the roll pin against the hole walls keeps it in place, until deliberately removed with a drift punch or pin punch.

Safety Wiring

Safety wiring is the most positive and satisfactory method of safetying capscrews, studs, nuts, bolt heads, and turnbuckle barrels which cannot be safetied by any other practical means. It is a method of wiring together two or more units in such a manner that any tendency of one to loosen is counteracted by the tightening of the wire.

Nuts, Bolts, and Screws

Nuts, bolts, and screws are safety wired by the single wire or double twist method. The double twist method is the most common method of safety wiring. The single wire method may be used on small screws in a closely spaced closed geometrical pattern, on parts in electrical systems, and in places that are extremely difficult to reach. Safety wiring should always be per conventional methods or as required by the manufacturer, especially for Light Sport Aircraft (LSA).

Figure 5-71 is an illustration of various methods which are commonly used in safety wiring nuts, bolts, and screws. Careful study of Figure 5-71 shows that:

Figure 5-71. Safety wiring methods.

Figure 5-71. Safety wiring methods.

  • Examples 1, 2, and 5 illustrate the proper method of safety wiring bolts, screws, squarehead plugs, and similar parts when wired in pairs.
  • Example 3 illustrates several components wired in series.
  • Example 4 illustrates the proper method of wiring castellated nuts and studs. (Note that there is no loop around the nut.)
  • Examples 6 and 7 illustrate a single threaded component wired to a housing or lug.
  • Example 8 illustrates several components in a closely spaced closed geometrical pattern, using a single wire method.

When drilled head bolts, screws, or other parts are grouped together, they are more conveniently safety wired to each other in a series rather than individually. The number of nuts, bolts, or screws that may be safety wired together is dependent on the application. For instance, when safety wiring widely spaced bolts by the double twist method, a group of three should be the maximum number in a series.

When safety wiring closely spaced bolts, the number that can be safety wired by a 24-inch length of wire is the maximum in a series. The wire is arranged so that if the bolt or screw begins to loosen, the force applied to the wire is in the tightening direction.

Parts being safety wired should be torqued to recommend values and the holes aligned before attempting the safetying operation. Never overtorque or loosen a torqued nut to align safety wire holes.