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Aging Aircraft Center

Fact Sheet

Since 1991, Sandia National Laboratories has operated the Aging Aircraft NDI Validation Center for the Federal Aviation Administration. The center is dedicated to improving the safety of aging aircraft through nondestructive inspection (NDI) techniques.

NDI techniques, an area of expertise at Sandia developed through weapons work, allow inspectors to assess the integrity of aircraft structures without requiring disassembly. Cracks and other defects located on or within a material interact with sound, magnetic, radiation, thermal, or optical waves impinged on its surface.

The research center is located in a hangar at the Albuquerque International Airport. The hangar simulates a working maintenance environment and houses two aircraft used for research: a Boeing 737 and an HU-25A "Guardian" aircraft provided by the U.S. Coast Guard. The hangar also contains an archive of aircraft structures that can be used for testing nondestructive techniques.

Sandia plays a critical role in bridging the gap between NDI research and the eventual commercialization of technologies. The center provides the necessary interface among academia, industry, and government to transfer the technologies resulting from aging aircraft research to actual use in the aviation industry. Companies or individuals with promising technologies can try them out on the center's test specimens and receive assistance and feedback from Sandia personnel.

Another of the center's objectives is to determine how well current equipment and procedures used in the field detect structural flaws. Center researchers recently completed an inspection reliability experiment.

Sandia is a multiprogram laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a Lockheed Martin Company, for the United States Department of Energy.
Media Contact
Chris Miller

Last modified: August 6, 1997

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