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Aircraft are designed and built to provide many years of services. For the aircraft to remain airworthy
and safe to operate, they should be operated in accordance with the recommendations of
manufacturer and cared for with inspection and maintenance practices.
Proper maintenance of an aircrafts structural integrity can be a demanding task. Aircraft are subjected
to a variety of influences, which can affect their ability to withstand the rigors of flight. Failure or
potential failure of airframe components is not always easy to identify. However, once a potential
failure is identified, it must be evaluated is extent of discrepancy, determine its causes, determine the
proper corrective action or repair and repaired.
Airframe inspection may range from a casual walk around to detail inspection involving complete
disassembly and the use of complex inspection aids. Traditionally, the inspections are classified as a
destructive or non-destructive. Maintenance is concerned with non-destructive testing, since
destructive testing eliminates the serviceability of part or material being tested.
Non-Destructive Testing
Non-destructive testing, also called NDT, non-destructive evaluation, NDE, and non-destructive
inspection, NDI is a test that does not destroy the test object. While destructive testing usually
provides a more reliable assessment of the state of the test object, destruction of the test object
usually makes this type of test more costly. Destructive testing is also inappropriate in many
circumstances. There is a tradeoff between the cost of the test and its reliability favors a strategy in
which most test objects are inspected non-destructively. Destructive testing is performed on a
sampling of test objects that is drawn randomly for characterizing the testing reliability of the nondestructive test.
Methods and techniques
NDT is divided into various methods of non-destructive testing, each based on a particular scientific
principle. These methods may be further subdivided into various techniques as listed in Table 1.
Table 1: Methods and Techniques of Non-destructive Testing


Acoustic Emission Testing (AE)

Acoustic-impact technique

Computed Tomography (CT)

Electromagnetic Testing (ET)
Eddy-Current Testing (ECT)


Infrared and Thermal Testing (IR)

Thermographic inspection
Laser testing
Holography / Stereography

Leak Testing (LT)

Bubble testing
Absolute pressure leak testing (pressure change)
Halogen diode leak testing
Mass spectrometer leak testing

Liquid Penetrant Testing (PT or LPI)

Post-emulsifiable testing
Solvent-removable testing
Water-washable testing

Magnetic Particle Testing (MT or MPI)

Magnetic Flux Leakage Testing (MFL)
Neutron Radiographic Testing (NR)
Radiographic Testing (RT)
Remote Field Testing (RFT)
Ultrasonic Inspection (UT)
Visual and Optical Testing (VT)

Pipeline video inspection

The various methods and techniques, due to their particular natures, may lend themselves especially
well to certain applications and be of little or no value at all in other applications. Therefore choosing
the right method and technique is an important part of the performance of NDT.
Regardless of application or method, all nondestructive testing shares the same basic elements:
a. Source source provides a medium for testing.
b. Modification the probing material must be modified due to variation in the source.

Detection a detector that will determine the changes on the probing medium.

d. Indication some means of indicating/recording signals received from indicator

e. Interpretation A method of interpreting indications.
Defect-Detection Test
NDT's defect detection tests attempt to detect defects (e.g., cracks, intergranular corrosion, pits and
inclusions) before they can cause structural failure, leaks or other, unfavorable outcomes. The
existence of a "probability of detection," corresponding to the probability of a true positive given a true
positive OR false negative (inclusive disjunction implied by OR) is more often asserted for these tests
than delivered by their design. Similarly, the existence of a "probability of false call," corresponding to
the probability of a false positive given a false positive OR true negative is more often asserted than
delivered. This topic is amplified below.

Some NDT Methods Used in Airframe Inspection

Visual Inspection
Visual inspection is the most obvious form of NDI. The check may be performed with naked eye
or assisted by magnification. The most frequently used magnification level employed in aviation is
10 powers.
Acoustic-emission technique
Acoustic Emission (AE) is a type of nondestructive testing technology whereby ultrasonic
transient elastic waves within a material are monitored in order to locate and define their source
event. An event is the phenomenon that releases elastic energy into the material, which then
disperses as an elastic wave. An event could be the extension of a fatigue crack, or fiber
breakage in a composite material. Transducers are attached to the material in order to detect
these waves, which are in the region of 1kHz to 1MHz. AE tools do not produce waves. Rather,
they just catch the emission of acoustics produced by defects in metal.
Eddy-Current Testing
Eddy-Current testing uses electromagnetic induction to detect flaws in conductive materials,
amongst other operations. There are several limitations, among them: the surface of the material
must be accessible, the finish of the material may cause bad readings, the depth of penetration
into the material is limited, and flaws that lie parallel to the probe may be undetectable. However,
eddy-current testing can detect very small cracks in or near the surface of the material, the
surfaces need minimal preparation, and physically complex geometries can be investigated. The
testing devices are portable, provide immediate feedback, and do not need to contact the item in
Dye penetrant inspection
Dye penetrant inspection, also known as liquid penetrant inspection, is a type of nondestructive
testing used generally in the detection of flaws in non-ferrous alloys. It can also be used for the
inspection of ferrous materials where magnetic-particle inspection is difficult to apply. In some
cases, it can be used on non-metallic materials.
The procedure begins with cleaning the surface and the flaws, leaving only air in the flaws. The
penetrant is then applied to the surface of the item being tested. The dye is allowed time to soak
into any flaws (generally 10 to 30 minutes). Then the excess penetrant is removed from the
surface, without removing penetrant from the flaws. This step is generally carried out with water
(water-washable penetrants). After drying, a white developer is sprayed in a thin, even coating, to
draw any dye which has entered defects to the surface, a process similar to the action of blotting

paper. Any colored stains indicate the positions and types of defects in the surface under
inspection. The penetrants are usually red, purple or sometimes orange, to give a good contrast
against the white developer used in the process.
Magnetic-particle inspection
Magnetic particle inspection processes are non-destructive methods for the detection of defects in
ferrous materials. They make use of an externally applied magnetic field or DC current through
the material, and the principle that the magnetic susceptibility of a defect is markedly poorer (the
magnetic resistance is greater) than that of the surrounding material.
The presence of a surface or near surface flaw (void) in the material causes distortion in the
magnetic flux through it, which in turn causes leakage of the magnetic fields at the flaw. This
deformation of the magnetic field is not limited to the immediate locality of the defect but extends
for a considerable distance; even through the surface and into the air if the magnetism is intense
enough. Thus, the size of the distortion is much larger than that of the defect and is made visible
at the surface of the part by means of the tiny particles that are attracted to the leakage fields.
The most common method of magnetic particle inspection uses finely divided iron or magnetic
iron oxide particles, held in suspension in a suitable liquid (often kerosene). This fluid is referred
to as carrier. The particles are often colored and usually coated with fluorescent dyes that are
made visible with a hand-held ultraviolet (UV) light. The suspension is sprayed or painted over the
magnetized specimen during magnetization with a direct current or with an electromagnet, to
localize areas where the magnetic field has protruded from the surface. The magnetic particles
are attracted by the surface field in the area of the defect and hold on to the edges of the defect to
reveal it as a build up of particles.
This inspection can be applied to raw material in a steel mill (billets or slabs), in the early stages
of manufacturing (forgings, castings), or most commonly to machined parts before they are put
into service. It is also very commonly used for inspecting structural parts (e.g. landing gear) that
have been in-service for some time to find fatigue cracks.
Radiographic Testing
Radiographic Testing (RT), or industrial radiography, is a nondestructive testing (NDT) method of
inspecting materials for hidden flaws by using the ability of short wavelength electromagnetic
radiation (high-energy photons) to penetrate various materials.
Either an X-ray machine or a radioactive source (Ir-192, Co-60, or in rare cases Cs-137) can be
used as a source of photons. Neutron radiographic testing (NR) is a variant of radiographic testing
which uses neutrons instead of photons to penetrate materials. This can see very different things

from X-rays, because neutrons can pass with ease through lead and steel but are stopped by
plastics, water, and oils.
Since the amount of radiation emerging from the opposite side of the material can be detected
and measured, variations in this amount (or intensity) of radiation are used to determine thickness
or composition of material. Penetrating radiations are those restricted to that part of the
electromagnetic spectrum of wavelength less than about 10 nanometers.
Ultrasonic Testing
In ultrasonic testing, ultrasonic waves of frequencies ranging from 0.5-15MHz and occasionally up
to 50MHz are used to detect flaws.
a. Superior penetrating power, which allows the detection of flaws deep in the part.
b. High sensitivity, permitting the detection of extremely small flaws.

Only one surface needs to be accessible.

d. Greater accuracy than other nondestructive methods in determining the depth of internal
flaws and the thickness of parts with parallel surfaces.
e. Some capability of estimating the size, orientation, shape, and nature of defects.

No hazardous to operations or to nearby personnel and has no effect on equipment and

materials in the vicinity.

g. Capable of portable or highly automated operation.

a. Manual operation requires careful attention by experienced technicians
b. Extensive technical knowledge is required for the development of inspection procedures.

Parts those are rough, irregular in shape, very small or thin, or not homogeneous are difficult
to inspect.

d. Couplants are needed to provide effective transfer of ultrasonic wave energy between
transducers and parts being inspected.
Inspection of welds
The beam of radiation must be directed to the middle of the section under examination and must be
normal to the material surface at that point, except in special techniques where known defects are
best revealed by a different alignment of the beam. The length of weld under examination for each
exposure shall be such that the thickness of the material at the diagnostic extremities, measured in
the direction of the incident beam, does not exceed the actual thickness at that point by more than
6%. The specimen to be inspected is placed between the source of radiation and the detecting

device, usually the film in a light tight holder or cassette, and the radiation is allowed to penetrate the
part for the required length of time to be adequately recorded.
The result is a two-dimensional projection of the part onto the film, producing a latent image of varying
densities according to the amount of radiation reaching each area. It is known as a radiograph, as
distinct from a photograph produced by light. Because film is cumulative in its response (the exposure
increasing as it absorbs more radiation), relatively weak radiation can be detected by prolonging the
exposure until the film can record an image that will be visible after development. The radiograph is
examined as a negative, without printing as a positive as in photography. This is because, in printing,
some of the detail is always lost and no useful purpose is served.
Before commencing a radiographic examination, it is always advisable to examine the component
with one's own eyes, to eliminate any possible external defects. If the surface of a weld is too
irregular, it may be desirable to grind it to obtain a smooth finish, but this is likely to be limited to those
cases in which the surface irregularities (which will be visible on the radiograph) may make detecting
internal defects difficult.
After this visual examination, the operator will have a clear idea of the possibilities of access to the
two faces of the weld, which is important, both for the setting up of the equipment and for the choice
of the most appropriate technique.
Defects such as delaminations and planar cracks are difficult to detect using radiography, which is
why penetrants are often used to enhance the contrast in the detection of such defects. Penetrants
used include silver nitrate, zinc iodide, chloroform, and diiodomethane. Choice of the penetrant is
determined by the ease with which it can penetrate the cracks and with which it can be removed.
Diiodomethane has the advantages of high opacity, ease of penetration, and ease of removal
because it evaporates relatively quickly. However, it can cause skin burns.
Industrial radiography appears to have one of the worst safety profiles of the radiation professions,
possibly because there are many operators using strong gamma sources (> 2 Ci) in remote sites with
little supervision when compared with workers within the nuclear industry or within hospitals. Many of
the lost source accidents commented on by the IAEA involve radiography equipment. Lost source
accidents have the potential to cause a considerable loss of human life, one scenario is that a passer
by finds the radiography source and not knowing what it is, takes it home. The person shortly
afterwards becomes ill and dies because of the radiation dose. The source remains in their home
where it continues to irradiate other members of the household.