As Tooling Coordinator for Monarch Aircraft Engineering (MAEL) at Luton Airport, Barry Lee ensures that his company’s engineers are provided with the best available technologies for their aircraft test and inspection work. Although the instruments used most frequently are available, these are regularly supplemented by rented equipment from Ashtead Technology during periods of high demand and when they need to evaluate a new technology.
The quality of MAEL’s services is underpinned by a highly effective test and inspection capability which utilises the latest technologies to comply with all regulatory requirements. For example, thermal cameras 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.
Video borescopes (also known as videoprobes or videoscopes) are now one of the most widely employed non-destructive testing (NDT) instruments. For example, they can be used 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. There are, however, many other applications for borescopes because of their ability to provide access to parts of the aircraft that would otherwise be difficult to inspect.
Commenting on the need to supplement MAEL’s fleet of borescopes with hired instruments, Barry says: “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 ten 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.”
Ashtead Technology’s Jay Neermul believes that continual investment in the company’s rental fleet is a core strength of the business; “Our overall objective is to ensure that customers have access to the instruments that best meet their needs, but beyond that we are constantly investing in new technology so that our customers don’t need to.”
One of the latest additions to Ashtead Technology’s fleet of NDT inspection instruments is the 700g Olympus IPLEX UltraLite. This incorporates a combined control and display unit that fits in the palm of one hand and frees the other hand to guide the probe insertion tube. Observed images can be stored on a memory card as high-quality JPEG images and MPEG-4 movies.
Lee commented: “The ability to hire instruments at very 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.”