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Aging Aircraft NDT

The sustainment of aging aircraft often requires novel application of standard NDT techniques, combinations of techniques, and sometimes just plain judgment. This ever-changing, sometimes “rough and tumble” world makes close partnership of NDT technicians and sustainment engineers a must. Close communication between the two merges in-depth knowledge of the inspection technology with an understanding of structural load paths, aircraft usage, and material properties to make an informed “decision without disassembly.” The element of the unknown often looms large in the aging aircraft field. The deterioration of the aircraft system may come from outside sources: fatigue or environmental attack (i.e. corrosion). Sometimes it is self-induced: inadequate maintenance practices, poor material selection in the design phase, or changes in usage of the platform. Despite the cause of damage, the sustaining organization must remain ever vigilant; not just relying on the inspections in the book (although those are necessary), but going out and “looking for trouble.” This approach requires the right technique(s) in the right place at the right time – with just a little luck thrown in.

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