What Are the Ways We Inspect Aircraft?

Just like our own personal cars, aircraft need constant maintenance to ensure that every part works correctly and is repaired or replaced as necessary. While we may think of it as a nuisance that can cause delays, we understand that taking care of our machinery is important and keeps everything functioning smoothly and safely for everyone. But how do aircraft maintenance checks work and what are the tools used to complete them?

Applied Technical Services, or ATS, have been leaders in the Aviation NDT (Non-destructive Testing) industry since they first obtained their repair certificate from the FAA in 1975. They work to detect flaws and threats in aircraft components and search for common flaws, including cracks, thermal cycling, unintended overheating, and vibrations. Some of the few ways that they detect these flaws early is through eddy currents, ultrasonic testing, and magnetic particle inspection services.

Eddy current testing (ET), is a method that is beneficial for finding small cracks and defects that may be on or near the surface and can provide technicians with immediate results. This method of testing can be used for crack detection, material and coating thickness, and conductivity testing during aircraft inspections. Due to the portability of ATS’ ET testing equipment, they are able to inspect complex shapes and sizes of aircraft conductive materials. They utilize this form of testing in field locations, laboratories, and customer premises.

Ultrasonic testing, or UT, is also beneficial for detection as it is recognized for having the highest depth of penetration for finding subsurface flaws. ATS utilizes NDT UT for detecting flaws, taking dimensional measurements, as well as material characterization. Ultrasonic testing is very useful for immediate results and technicians often only need one side access. UT equipment has proven to be highly accurate for finding flaws as well as estimating their size and shape. Common findings using UT equipment include shrinkage cracks, welding defects, hydrogen flakes, and more to find what needs to be repaired or replaced early.

Magnetic particle inspection services are a very popular method of aircraft maintenance and repairs checks as it is a form of nondestructive testing, and has proven to be one of the most cost effective inspection methods with a very short turn-around time. Similar to Eddy Current Testing, MPI can detect at, or near surface flaws and discontinuities. One method of using MPI is using dry particle and wet suspension while applying continuous residual magnetization. Using this method, technicians can find flaws in ferromagnetic materials, cooling cracks, machine tears, cupping, and more.

Aircraft engine inspections and aircraft maintenance are important for functionality and safety of every part. The FAA sets preventative and minor maintenance schedules along with required annual inspections to ensure that all components are repaired or replaced before failure. The FAA also publishes Airworthiness Directives, or AD Notes, to help provide owners of aircraft with info about unsafe conditions. There are many utilized methods to detect flaws, and all work to aid maintenance checks and safety of everyone.


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