"AN flare and 37 degree industrial flare function identically. In many cases they appear to be functionally interchangeable, but they are not"
quote from Parker Aerospace Fitting Solutions Series No.11
Aircraft AN fittings are manufactured to MIL-F-5509 per AN (Air Force - Navy Aeronautical Standard) and AND (Air Force - Navy Aeronautical Design Standard).
Industrial 37 degree flare fittings are manufactured to meet SAE J514/ISO-8434-2. Straight threads are per MIL-S-8879C now SAE-AS8879.
The most notable difference between these standards are in the threads. AN fittings use a increased root radius thread ("J" thread) and a tighter tolerance (Class 3) to achieve a 40% increase in fatigue strength and 10% increase in shear strength (thread tensile stress area of 110.76 compared to 103.20 mm2 ). This difference is stated in the thread designation, For example:
AN Fitting: 1/2-20 UNJF-3B
There is a an Airworthiness Directive (90-04-06) involving breaking of the aluminum propeller governor fitting on Lycoming engines. The aluminum AN fitting was used successfully for decades before they started breaking. The justice department brought charges against a company that was selling these fittings as AN when they were in fact industrial. Sometimes the higher strength serves an important purpose.
Industrial: 1/2-20 UNF-2B
These two fittings function the same, they look the same, AND the industrial version is much less expensive to manufacturer. The problem is that the industrial version is 40% weaker. "A significant improvement in fatigue life is attained with the use of MIL-S-8879 thread when compared with the MIL-S-7742 thread." DAC (Douglas Aircraft Corporation) Design Handbook 126.96.36.199
Aircraft are vibrating structures, much more so than most industrial applications. Vibration fatigues the threads, so aircraft hardware uses a modified thread form and tighter tolerance to increase fatigue strength. This is true not only for AN fittings but also for AN and NAS bolts, and installed hose "B" nut fittings. These aircraft hardware items are also UNJF-3A/3B whereas the industrial is UNF-2A/B.
How do you tell them apart?
You cannot visually see a tolerance or an increased root radius. These are measured with special equipment. Some fittings sold as "AN" are industrial grade.
What about AN marking?
MIL-P-5509D requires that all flared tube fittings and nuts shall be marked with the letters AN or MS and the manufacturer's identification or trademark. Sleeves must be trademarked. Letters AN or MS on sleeves are optional. I have found fittings marked "AN" that do not meet AN tolerances (Class 2 instead of Class 3).
Tapered Pipe Threads
Tapered pipe threads for aerospace are ANPT whereas the commercial version of a tapered pipe thread is NPT. ANPT specifications, formerly MIL-P-7105B are now part of SAE AS571051. ANPT is essentially a NPT thread with extensive testing, gauging, sampling, NDT, and other quality control requirements. ANPT threads are required to meet two additional gaging methods, the L2 and the 6-step.
MIL-F-5509D for flared aircraft fittings has extensive quality assurance provisions, including sampling for NDT tests, sampling for destructive tests, Lot identification, and Material Certification, Tensile strength tests, Finish tests.
How can you protect yourself?
Aircraft AN fitting is more expensive so it will not be the least expensive fitting. The least expensive fitting is almost guaranteed to be industrial.
Instead of ordering "AN Fittings" - specify conformance to MIL-F-5509 or specify sizing to UNJF-3B/3A. Purchase from aircraft sources rather than sources that sell industrial/aircraft.
What if it doesn't matter?
It always matters if you order and pay for aircraft "AN" quality and standards and receive something inferior. If you don't need "AN" quality, and the industrial version suits your purpose, then fine. Order as a 37 degree (JIC) or Parker Triple-Lok.
How to inspect?
You can determine if a fitting is an AN fitting and not industrial by seeing if it meets Class 3 (aerospace) size tolerance. Measure the pitch diameter using a thread micrometer. The pitch diameter determines whether the part meets Class 3A (aerospace) or 2A (commercial). An adequate thread micrometer costs approximately $150.00. In one batch of 20 AN nipples that I inspected, only 50% were Class 3!
Using a thread micrometer to pitch diameter. Used as a quick check to see if the threads are sized properly for class 3B.
What is the difference between aircraft AN and JIC fittings
Mechanic's Toolbox - Software for the Mechanic
40 software programs written especially for the mechanic
Mechanic's Toolbox includes 40 programs including: aircraft wire, aircraft cable, aircraft grease, anti-seize, AN nuts, bolt, and screws, Aircraft AN fittings, Aircraft hose, Aircraft Rivets and many more. Over 300 documents and specifications included.