Sandia Labs Course Helps Aircraft Inspectors Detect Composite Material Damage

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December 5, 2016 | Originally published by Date Line: December 5 on

As manufacturers build more wings, fuselages and other major commercial aircraft parts out of solid-laminate composite materials, Sandia National Laboratories has shown that aircraft inspectors need training to better detect damage in these structures.

So the Airworthiness Assurance Center — operated by Sandia for the Federal Aviation Administration  (FAA) for the past 26 years — has developed the first course to train inspectors in the airline and aircraft manufacturing industries nondestructive inspection techniques (NDI) for solid-laminate composite materials.

The course was first presented this summer at Delta Air Lines Inc. in Atlanta, Georgia, to 35 engineers and inspectors from six countries. The FAA sponsored development of the course, which is now available to private industry.

For the past decade, Sandia has conducted experiments on the probability of detecting damage in composite materials — honeycomb and solid-laminate structures — that showed wide variations in inspectors’ abilities and techniques.