The latest borescopes from equipment rental specialist Ashtead Technology are helping engineers at Monarch Aircraft Engineering (MAEL) to maintain the highest levels of technology in its fleet of inspection instruments, without excessive capital costs.
“The key to the success of our work is an ability to provide customers with timely, accurate and detailed inspection reports so that they can make informed decisions,” explained MAEL Tooling Coordinator Barry Lee. “We therefore have a close relationship with Ashtead Technology because this provides us with fast access to a broad range of the latest technologies.”
MAEL is a division of Monarch, the UK’s longest-established, privately owned travel group. MAEL provides base and line maintenance, continuing airworthiness, design, technical training and component support.
Asa leading provider of MRO (Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul), MAEL focuses on cost-efficient service delivery to both Monarch and blue-chip third-party customers. Operating globally, MAEL provides aircraft maintenance services to clients located in east and west Europe, the Middle East, Australia and North America. With superior knowledge in maintaining legacy fleets MAEL is also a leading MRO for new technology aircraft, including the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, for which it is one of a small group of worldwide Boeing-approved GoldCare providers.
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.
Borescopes are commonly employed to inspect engines, auxiliary power units and other difficult to access locations. Barry says “The latest borescopes are extremely small and have particularly good articulation, which means that it is becoming easier to generate high quality reports.”
One of Barry’s main responsibilities is to ensure that MAEL’s engineers are provided with the best available inspection technologies. “We maintain a stock of the instruments that we use most frequently and this is regularly supplemented by rented equipment from Ashtead Technology,” he says.
In order for MAEL’s customers to make informed decisions on how best to proceed following an inspection, it is necessary for them to be provided with clear, accurate information on any identified defects such as cracks. MAEL’s engineers may offer advice following an inspection, but the aircraft owner will decide on the most appropriate course of action. For example, it may be necessary for a specific defect to be inspected more frequently, in order to assess crack propagation for example, or, if the defect is significant, the part (E.g. engine blade) may need to be replaced. If the problem is more serious, it may be necessary to lease a replacement engine whilst the other is repaired. Clearly, there are major safety and financial implications for this work and all inspection information therefore has to be traceable and logged.
“The creation of digital reports, complemented by detailed images and video means that this information can be easily shared, so that different people can contribute to the decision making process, which is a major benefit,” Barry says.
In recent years, advances in borescope technology have greatly improved the quality of inspection reports. For example, Stereo Borescopes such as the IPLEX RX provide an advanced imaging capability, and a screen switching system that enables users to employ stereo measurement technology. Stereo measurement offers a number of important advantages. For example, a ‘distance’ mode enables the measurement of defect length by clicking the cursor at both ends of the defect. In the ‘point-to-line’ mode it is possible to create a reference line and then measure a distance from that line. Similarly, a ‘depth’ mode enables the measurement of depth or height from a specified reference surface to any point, and an ‘area/lines’ mode can be employed to measure the circumference or area between marker points.
The IPLEX RX also produces the best video and still image quality of any Olympus videoscope. This is complemented by an LED illumination system that is twice as bright as conventional videoscopes, and dynamically adjusts light output to reduce halation when metal or reflective surfaces are inspected. The image processor interacts intelligently with the illumination system to deliver an optimised amount of light and gain enhancement to provide images that are very clear and sharply defined.
Typical applications for borescopes include the inspection of 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.
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 many years and it has been very useful to develop an effective working relationship. Instruments can be delivered very quickly – same-day in some cases – and they are ready for immediate use, which helps ensure the speed and efficiency of our work.
As an airline MRO with a large number of line maintenance clients MAEL is acutely aware of the significant damage to airline operations and revenue that limiting defects represent. In order to ensure that the necessary action is taken to manage these operational limitations, a Specialised Monarch AOG Response Team (SMART) was created, comprising highly qualified engineers who are available 24/7 to meet up with the relevant aircraft,equipped with the necessary tools to carry out the maintenance requirement. “All of the SMART team have been trained on the use of borescopes. In some cases this training was provided by the instrument manufacturer, but for others, it was supplied by Ashtead Technology,” Barry adds.
Ashtead Technology’s Alan Hasson 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.
“In addition to borescopes, a wide variety of other NDT and remote visual inspection instruments are employed within the aerospace sector. For example, high-speed cameras are used to study the action of components that move too fast for the human eye, and portable XRF analysers are employed to check the metallic components built into airframes and jet engines.”
Summarising, Barry Lee says: “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.”
For further information on Ashtead Technology’s fleet of inspection instruments visit www.ashtead-technology.com.