Aerospace Bolts

Aircraft bolts are fabricated from cadmium or zinc plated corrosion resistant steel, unplated corrosion resistant steel, and anodized aluminum alloys. Most bolts used in aircraft structures are either general purpose, AN bolts, or NAS internal wrenching or close tolerance bolts, or MS bolts. In certain cases, aircraft manufacturers make bolts of different dimensions or greater strength than the standard types. Such bolts are made for a particular application, and it is of extreme importance to use like bolts in replacement. Special bolts are usually identified by the letter "S" stamped on the head. 

AN bolts come in three head styles - hex head, clevis, and eyebolt. NAS bolts are available in hex head, internal wrenching, and countersunk head styles. MS bolts come in hex head and internal wrenching styles.

General Purpose Bolts

The hex head aircraft bolt (AN-3 through AN-20) is an all purpose structural bolt used for general applications involving tension or shear loads where a light drive fit is permissible (0.006 inch clearance for a 5/8 inch hole, and other sizes in proportion).

Alloy steel bolts smaller than No. 10-32 and aluminum alloy bolts smaller than 1/4 inch diameter are not used in primary structures. Aluminum alloy bolts and nuts are not used where they will be repeatedly removed for purposes of maintenance and inspection. Aluminum alloy nuts may be used with cadmium plated steel bolts loaded in shear on land airplanes, but are not used on seaplanes due to the increased possibility of dissimilar metal corrosion.

The AN-73 drilled head bolt is similar to the standard hex bolt, but has a deeper head which is drilled to receive wire for safetying. The AN-3 and the AN-73 series bolts are interchangeable, for all practical purposes, from the standpoint of tension and shear strengths.

Close Tolerance Bolts

This type of bolt is machined more accurately than the general purpose bolt. Close tolerance bolts may be hex headed (AN-173 through AN-186) or have a 100° countersunk head (NAS-80 through NAS-86). They are used in applications where a tight drive fit is required (the bolt will move into position only when struck with a 12 to 14 ounce hammer).

Internal Wrenching Bolts

These bolts, (MS-20004 through MS-20024 or NAS-495) are fabricated from high strength steel and are suitable for use in both tension and shear applications. When they are used in steel parts, the bolt hole must be slightly countersunk to seat the large corner radius of the shank at the head. In Dural material, a special heat treated washer must be used to provide an adequate bearing surface for the head. The head of the internal wrenching bolt is recessed to allow the insertion of an internal wrench when installing or removing the bolt. Special high strength nuts are used on these bolts. Replace an internal wrenching bolt with another internal wrenching bolt. Standard AN hex head bolts and washers cannot be substituted for them as they do not have the required strength.

Identification and Coding

Bolts are manufactured in many shapes and varieties. A clear cut method of classification is difficult. Bolts can be identified by the shape of the head, method of securing, material used in fabrication, or the expected usage.

AN-type aircraft bolts can be identified by the code markings on the bolt heads. The markings generally denote the bolt manufacturer, the material of which the bolt is made, and whether the bolt is a standard AN-type or a special purpose bolt. AN standard steel bolts are marked with either a raised dash or asterisk; corrosion resistant steel is indicated by a single raised dash; and AN aluminum alloy bolts are marked with two raised dashes. Additional information, such as bolt diameter, bolt length, and grip length may be obtained from the bolt part number.

For example, in the bolt part number AN3DD5A, the "AN" designates that it is an Air Force-Navy Standard bolt, the "3" indicates the diameter in sixteenths of an inch (3/16), the "DD" indicates the material is 2024 aluminum alloy. The letter "C" in place of the "DD" would indicate corrosion resistant steel, and the absence of the letters would indicate cadmium plated steel. The "5" indicates the length in eighths of an inch (5/8), and the "A" indicates that the shank is undrilled. If the letter "H" preceded the "5" in addition to the "A" following it, the head would be drilled for safetying.

Close tolerance NAS bolts are marked with either a raised or recessed triangle. The material markings for NAS bolts are the same as for AN bolts, except that they may be either raised or recessed. Bolts inspected magnetically (Magnaflux) or by fluorescent means (Zyglo) are identified by means of colored lacquer, or a head marking of a distinctive type.