Original Date: 01/23/1995
Revision Date: 01/18/2007
Best Practice : Inspection Techniques for Aging Aircraft Inspection
The FAA created an Aging Aircraft Non-destructive Inspection Validation Center (AANC), managed by Sandia, to address aerospace industry needs for its aging civilian fleet. The AANC's primary mission is to assist in the development and transfer of emerging non-destructive inspection technologies from universities, government, and private industry to the aircraft industry. To support this objective, the AANC has developed a validation process that can be used to determine the reliability and cost effectiveness of a candidate inspection technology.
The validation process consists of four phases -- conceptual, preliminary design, final design, and field implementation. Phase 1 validation activities include identification of the problem and requirements, determination of the approach, laboratory demonstration of proof-of- concept, and initial estimate of equipment costs. Phase 2 activities focus on laboratory tests of initial prototypes and determination of operator procedures and inspector requirements. Phase 3 provides an assessment of factors affecting reliability through demonstrations of capability on "blind" test specimens in the laboratory and in the field. Phase 4 involves developing fieldable prototypes, finalization of procedures, field trials with independent inspectors and potential users, and full cost/benefit analysis. The result of these new inspection techniques are then released to the aircraft industry and the FAA and if adopted, become standard or alternate inspection procedures to follow during maintenance inspection of aircraft.
To date, the AANC has demonstrated excellent results. One of the first investigations resulted in a consumer report on Ultrasonic and Eddy Current Scanners which are used to inspect riveted joints in the aircraft skin. The second success was the validation of a Magneto-Optic Imager (eddy current) which was able to scan a six-inch by six-inch area of skin without removing surface paint, as opposed to eddy current point scanning techniques. Thirdly, AANC has validated an inspection process to inspect the wingbox (structural member of airframe where wing meets fuselage) utilizing non-invasive ultrasonic testing techniques. Sandia is also working on alternative testing processes for halon fire extinguisher bottles using acoustic sensing technologies to determine and certify pressure vessel integrity.
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