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NDT Standards for Aviation: Ensuring Compliance with Third-Party Support

NDT standards for aviation ensure flight safety

Aviation is a safety-critical business. In order to keep passengers, crew, and cargo safe, airlines and manufacturers must perform regular physical inspections of their aircraft, as required by regulation. Performing full inspections, while keeping airplanes operable, requires modern nondestructive testing (NDT) techniques. Successfully completing necessary nondestructive testing depends on inspection expertise and effective NDT equipment.

Airlines base their inspection regimens on the regulations they are subject to. These regulations differ from country to country, though they are typically based on internationally recognized standards. The organizations which develop NDT standards for aviation are sometimes private entities, other times branches of their country’s government. Airplanes fly from country to country, into and out of different regulatory environments. To ensure that airline inspections are compliant with home country and host country standards, it’s wise to follow the stricter standard. 

Implementing NDT Standards for Aviation

Implementing NDT standards for aviation requires a strong knowledge of airplane construction and mechanics, the relevant standards, and the NDT techniques and equipment being used. This complexifies quickly, as a single airline may operate many different types of aircraft. Even planes with the same model number can vary significantly based on production year and custom build.

In addition, multiple types of nondestructive testing must be used to inspect different airplane systems, including ultrasonic testing, eddy current testing, and traditional NDT methods such as liquid penetrant and magnetic particle testing. Also, inspection teams don’t just have to inspect aircraft—they have to document each inspection performed and store it where it can be retrieved to demonstrate compliance.

With so many variables in play, a knowledgeable, certified, and experienced inspection team—or teams—is indispensable. Airlines can work to build internal inspection teams by hiring experienced personnel, providing ongoing employee training, purchasing and maintaining inspection equipment, and developing an accessible recordkeeping framework. 

Choosing Third Party Aviation Inspection Services

Alternatively, airlines can turn to third party inspection services to achieve compliance. Third-party inspection professionals will come with proven expertise, well-developed best practices, and their own high-quality inspection equipment. They will keep internal records and can help airlines create, update, or rationalize their own recordkeeping systems.

Before handing over the keys to something as important as aviation NDT, airlines should first properly vet their candidates for third party inspections. Reliability, expertise, and integrity are essential qualities of NDT inspection services. Inspection services should have proven records of meeting deadlines and inspection standards in aviation, preferably records that are decades long.

Inspection services must provide expertise on several levels. First, they must have a strong technical understanding of the aircraft itself, in order to identify materials and components for testing. Second, they must have a deep legal understanding of the relevant standards, recordkeeping requirements, and jurisdictional issues. Third, they must have a thorough understanding of their NDT equipment, including basic principles, effective operation, software capabilities, maintenance needs, troubleshooting, and blind spots. NDT equipment manufacturers can be some of the most knowledgeable in this area and help guide organizations towards successful inspection processes.

How Third-Party Inspection Solutions Aid Aviation NDT Compliance

The use of NDT inspection services can be flexible in scope. For airlines without existing nondestructive testing procedures or equipment, NDT inspection services should be able to manage the entire testing regimen (depending on the size of the firm, this may involve subcontracting). Since the great majority of airlines perform some level of NDT inspections in-house already, third-party services can be used to buttress the existing framework, and bridge any gaps in the program.

For example, if an airline purchases its own equipment and hires in-house technicians, they can still rely on the dedicated expertise of third-party NDT firms for training. If an airline has solid experience and high-quality equipment for a certain type of NDT, say ultrasonic, then it could rely on a third-party firm to take care of other types of necessary NDT, like eddy current testing.

Third-party inspection services also shine in situations requiring temporary, short-term, or unexpected work. For instance, a third party inspection service can send staff and equipment to handle an anticipated increase in inspection load, due to the procurement of a band of several new aircraft. Or, when standards change—such as when an organization like the FAA issues an emergency directive requiring more stringent testing—third party firms can be called in to manage the extra volume.

Airlines are subject to stringent and complex inspection requirements, in order to keep the skies safe. Inspection teams can either be developed in-house or contracted from a third party. The advantages of third-party inspections include access to experience, proven best practices, and top-quality inspection equipment. Often, in-house and third-party inspection teams work together to ensure the most efficient testing process and the most effective results. 

Zetec, a leading manufacturer of NDT equipment for over half a century, provides top-shelf NDT equipment and inspection services for all your aviation NDT needs. To find out more, contact Zetec today.