Structural Fasteners – Special Purpose Fasteners – Blind Rivets

in Aircraft Metal Structural Repair

Special Purpose Fasteners

Special purpose fasteners are designed for applications in which fastener strength, ease of installation, or temperature properties of the fastener require consideration. Solid shank rivets have been the preferred construction method for metal aircraft for many years because they fill up the hole, which results in good load transfer, but they are not always ideal. For example, the attachment of many nonstructural parts (aircraft interior furnishings, flooring, deicing boots, etc.) do not need the full strength of solid shank rivets.


To install solid shank rivets, the aircraft technician must have access to both sides of a riveted structure or structural part. There are many places on an aircraft where this access is impossible or where limited space does not permit the use of a bucking bar. In these instances, it is not possible to use solid shank rivets, and special fasteners have been designed that can be bucked from the front. [Figure 4-101] There are also areas of high loads, high fatigue, and bending on aircraft. Although the shear loads of riveted joints are very good, the tension, or clamp-up, loads are less than ideal.

Figure 4-101. Assorted fasteners.

Figure 4-101. Assorted fasteners.

Special purpose fasteners are sometimes lighter than solid shank rivets, yet strong enough for their intended use. These fasteners are manufactured by several corporations and have unique characteristics that require special installation tools, special installation procedures, and special removal procedures. Because these fasteners are often inserted in locations where one head, usually the shop head, cannot be seen, they are called blind rivets or blind fasteners.

Typically, the locking characteristics of a blind rivet are not as good as a driven rivet. Therefore, blind rivets are usually not used when driven rivets can be installed. Blind rivets shall not be used:

  1. In fluid-tight areas.
  2. On aircraft in air intake areas where rivet parts may be ingested by the engine.
  3. On aircraft control surfaces, hinges, hinge brackets, flight control actuating systems, wing attachment fittings, landing gear fittings, on floats or amphibian hulls below the water level, or other heavily stressed locations on the aircraft.

NOTE: For metal repairs to the airframe, the use of blind rivets must be specifically authorized by the airframe manufacturer or approved by a representative of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Blind Rivets

The first blind fasteners were introduced in 1940 by the Cherry Rivet Company (now Cherry® Aerospace), and the aviation industry quickly adopted them. The past decades have seen a proliferation of blind fastening systems based on the original concept, which consists of a tubular rivet with a fixed head and a hollow sleeve. Inserted within the rivet’s core is a stem that is enlarged or serrated on its exposed end when activated by a pulling-type rivet gun. The lower end of the stem extends beyond the inner sheet of metal. This portion contains a tapered joining portion and a blind head that has a larger diameter than the stem or the sleeve of the tubular rivet.

When the pulling force of the rivet gun forces the blind head upward into the sleeve, its stem upsets or expands the lower end of the sleeve into a tail. This presses the inner sheet upward and closes any space that might have existed between it and the outer sheet. Since the exposed head of the rivet is held tightly against the outer sheet by the rivet gun, the sheets of metal are clamped, or clinched, together.

NOTE: Fastener manufacturers use different terminology to describe the parts of the blind rivet. The terms “mandrel,” “spindle,” and “stem” are often used interchangeably. For clarity, the word “stem” is used in this handbook and refers to the piece that is inserted into the hollow sleeve.

Friction-Locked Blind Rivets

Standard self-plugging blind rivets consist of a hollow sleeve and a stem with increased diameter in the plug section. The blind head is formed as the stem is pulled into the sleeve. Friction-locked blind rivets have a multiple-piece construction and rely on friction to lock the stem to the sleeve. As the stem is drawn up into the rivet shank, the stem portion upsets the shank on the blind side, forming a plug in the hollow center of the rivet. The excess portion of the stem breaks off at a groove due to the continued pulling action of the rivet gun. Metals used for these rivets are 2117- T4 and 5056-F aluminum alloy. Monel® is used for special applications.

Many friction-locked blind rivet center stems fall out due to vibration, which greatly reduces its shear strength. To combat that problem, most friction-lock blind rivets are replaced by the mechanical-lock, or stem-lock, type of blind fasteners. However, some types, such as the Cherry SPR® 3⁄32-inch Self-Plugging Rivet, are ideal for securing nutplates located in inaccessible and hard-to-reach areas where bucking or squeezing of solid rivets is unacceptable. [Figure 4-102]

Figure 4-102. Friction-lock blind rivet.

Figure 4-102. Friction-lock blind rivet.

Friction-lock blind rivets are less expensive than mechanical-lock blind rivets and are sometimes used for nonstructural applications. Inspection of friction-lock blind rivets is visual. A more detailed discussion on how to inspect riveted joints can be found in the section, General Repair Practices. Removal of friction-lock blind rivets consists of punching out the friction-lock stem and then treating it like any other rivet.

Mechanical-Lock Blind Rivets

The self-plugging, mechanical-lock blind rivet was developed to prevent the problem of losing the center stem due to vibration. This rivet has a device on the puller or rivet head that locks the center stem into place when installed. Bulbed, self-plugging, mechanically-locked blind rivets form a large, blind head that provides higher strength in thin sheets when installed. They may be used in applications where the blind head is formed against a dimpled sheet.

Manufacturers such as Cherry® Aerospace (CherryMAX®, CherryLOCK®, Cherry SST®) and Alcoa Fastening Systems (Huck-Clinch®, HuckMax®, Unimatic®) make many variations of this of blind rivet. While similar in design, the tooling for these rivets is often not interchangeable.

The CherryMAX® Bulbed blind rivet is one of the earlier types of mechanical-lock blind rivets developed. Their main advantage is the ability to replace a solid shank rivet size for size. The CherryMAX® Bulbed blind rivet consists of four parts:

  1. A fully serrated stem with break notch, shear ring, and integral grip adjustment cone.
  2. A driving anvil to ensure a visible mechanical lock with each fastener installation.
  3. A separate, visible, and inspectable locking collar that mechanically locks the stem to the rivet sleeve.
  4. A rivet sleeve with recess in the head to receive the locking collar.

It is called a bulbed fastener due to its large blind side bearing surface, developed during the installation process. These rivets are used in thin sheet applications and for use in materials that may be damaged by other types of blind rivets. This rivet features a safe-lock locking collar for more reliable joint integrity. The rough end of the retained stem in the center on the manufactured head must never be filed smooth because it weakens the strength of the lockring, and the center stem could fall out.

CherryMAX® bulbed rivets are available in three head styles: universal, 100° countersunk, and 100° reduced shear head styles. Their lengths are measured in increments of 1⁄16 inch. It is important to select a rivet with a length related to the grip length of the metal being joined. This blind rivet can be installed using either the Cherry® G750A or the newly released Cherry® G800 hand riveters, or either the pneumatichydraulic G704B or G747 CherryMAX® power tools. For installation, please refer to Figure 4-103.

Figure 4-103. CherryMax® installation procedure.

Figure 4-103. CherryMax® installation procedure. [click image to enlarge]

The CherryMAX® mechanical-lock blind rivet is popular with general aviation repair shops because it features the one tool concept to install three standard rivet diameters and their oversize counterparts. [Figure 4-104] CherryMAX® rivets are available in four nominal diameters: 1⁄8, 5⁄32, 3⁄16, and 1⁄4-inch and three oversized diameters and four head styles: universal, 100° flush head, 120° flush head, and NAS1097 flush head. This rivet consists of a blind header, hollow rivet shell, locking (foil) collar, driving anvil, and pulling stem complete with wrapped locking collar. The rivet sleeve and the driving washer blind bulbed header takes up the extended shank and forms the bucktail.

Figure 4-104. CherryMAX® rivet.

Figure 4-104. CherryMAX® rivet.

The stem and rivet sleeve work as an assembly to provide radial expansion and a large bearing footprint on the blind side of the fastened surface. The lock collar ensures that the stem and sleeve remain assembled during joint loading and unloading. Rivet sleeves are made from 5056 aluminum, Monel® and INCO 600. The stems are made from alloy steel, CRES, and INCO® X-750. CherryMAX® rivets have an ultimate shear strength ranging from 50 KSI to 75 KSI.

Removal of Mechanically Locked Blind Rivets

Mechanically locked blind rivets are a challenge to remove because they are made from strong, hard metals. Lack of access poses yet another problem for the aviation technician. Designed for and used in difficult to reach locations means there is often no access to the blind side of the rivet or any way to provide support for the sheet metal surrounding the rivet’s location when the aviation technician attempts removal.

The stem is mechanically locked by a small lock ring that needs to be removed first. Use a small center drill to provide a guide for a larger drill on top of the rivet stem and drill away the upper portion of the stem to destroy the lock. Try to remove the lock ring or use a prick punch or center punch to drive the stem down a little and remove the lock ring. After the lock ring is removed, the stem can be driven out with a drive punch. After the stem is removed, the rivet can be drilled out in the same way as a solid rivet. If possible, support the back side of the rivet with a backup block to prevent damage to the aircraft skin.