Air Transport World

Weapons lab aims tests at aging aircraft. (Sandia National Laboratories)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.-The technological expertise that the Energy Department's Sandia National Laboratories has focused on the design and testing of U.S. nuclear weapons for nearly five decades is being directed toward a new challenge: Extending the structural life of aging transport aircraft.

Under what ultimately win be a 5-year, $15 million contract with the U.S. FAA, Sandia has begun creating a facility that goes by the unwieldy name of the Aging Aircraft Nondestructive Inspection (NDI) Development and Demonstration Center (AANC).

The center's mission, says Dr. Patrick Walter, the laboratory's supervisor of aging-aircraft projects, is to evaluate, validate and transfer to the airline industry the optimum existing or emerging noninvasive procedures and equipment for assessing aircraft condition.

The AANC is the latest element of an FAA research program directed at the aging aircraft problem that was mandated by the Aviation Safety Research Act of 1988. …

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