Having a reliable source of rental test instruments allows Monarch Aircraft Engineering to immediately increase its capabilities during periods of high demand. This has helped the company win an industry award, based on a customer satisfaction survey
Based at London Luton Airport, Monarch Aircraft Engineering (MAEL) is a sister company to Monarch Airlines providing base maintenance, line maintenance, engineering and technical support, component and full material support, aircraft engine services and technical training.
MAEL’s services were recognised
at the annual Airline Economics Aviation 100 Awards, at which the company was named ‘Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul of the Year 2013.’ The award followed an 11 month customer satisfaction survey in which it achieved a rating of excellence from customers around the world.
The quality of MAEL’s services are underpinned by its test and inspection capabilities which utilise the latest technologies to comply with all necessary regulatory requirements. Thermal cameras, for example, are employed to identify potential weaknesses, corrosion or poor electrical connections; ultrasonic instruments enable the detection of flaws or cracks that are not visible to the human eye, and borescopes enable the internal inspection of aircraft components that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to assess.
Borescopes originally consisted of a rigid or flexible tube with an eyepiece at one end and an objective lens at the other. Optical fibres provided illumination for the remote object. The type
most commonly used today are video borescopes which use a miniature video camera at the end of the flexible tube and a display in the handle shows the camera view, and the viewing position can be changed with a joystick.
They are now one of the most widely employed non-destructive test (NDT) instruments. They can be used, for example, to inspect the inside of a reciprocating engine cylinder, by inserting the flexible probe into an open spark plug hole to detect damaged pistons, cylinder walls, or valves. Similarly, the hot section of a turbine engine can be assessed by inserting a probe through the hole of a removed igniter or via the access plugs which are designed into many engines, specifically to enable borescope inspections.
Barry Lee, tooling coordinator for MAEL, explained more about the test instruments used at the facility. He said: “We maintain a stock of the instruments that we use most frequently and this is regularly supplemented by rented equipment during periods of high demand and when we need to evaluate a new technology.”
Commenting on the need to supplement MAEL’s fleet of borescopes with hired instruments, Lee said: “There are many other applications for borescopes – because of their ability to provide access to parts of the aircraft that would otherwise be difficult to inspect. There are two main reasons for renting. Firstly, to increase our capability during periods of high demand; and secondly to enable us to try out new instruments or technologies, without having to commit to significant capital expense.
“We have dealt with Ashtead Technology for around 10 years and it has been very useful to develop an effective working relationship – instruments can be delivered very quickly, and they are ready for immediate use, which helps ensure the speed and efficiency of our work.”
In common with many other state-of-the-art technologies, today’s borescopes are smaller and easier to use than their predecessors; while producing better quality images and video. The GE XL Go, for example, can deliver clear digital images with a crystal-clear VGA LCD that gives inspectors the detailed images needed to ensure accurate inspections. Both still images and motion video can be recorded to the internal flash memory or a removable USB. The XL Go has no bulky base unit, no backpacks, no tethered scopes or power cords, which would make the system more difficult to use.
One of the latest additions to Ashtead Technology’s range of NDT inspection instruments is the Olympus IPLEX UltraLite. Weighing just 700 grams, it incorporates a combined control and display unit that fits into the palm of one hand, freeing the other hand to guide the probe insertion tube. Observed images can be stored on a memory card as JPEG images and MPEG-4 movies.
A wide variety of NDT and remote visual inspection instruments are employed within the aerospace sector. High-speed cameras, for example, are used to study the action of rapidly moving components.
Portable XRF analysers are also frequently employed to check the metallic components built into airframes and jet engines. Major alloy families used in aerospace applications include aluminium within the skins of aircraft, titanium and stainless steel within the frame and engine components, and nickel/cobalt high-performance alloys in jet engine components.
In conclusion, Lee said: “The ability to hire instruments at short notice is a major advantage because it reduces the capital cost that would be incurred by maintaining a tooling capability to meet maximum demand. For example, if non-routine inspections are required as a result of bird strikes or flight crew reports, the ability to rent means that our instrumentation capacity can be adjusted accordingly.”
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