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FAA SHM Research Program and the Challenges in Civil Aviation



The FAA’s Structural Health Monitoring (SHM) research program began in 2011 and its primary focus was to determine the potential impact of introducing SHM on civil aircraft on FAA regulatory policy and guidance. The FAA funded investigators at the Sandia National Labs Airworthiness Assurance Nondestructive Inspection Validation Center (AANC) to assist the FAA in developing a research program based on the AANC’s past work experience in NDI validation for the FAA. The program included a survey of the aviation industry concerning SHM capability, a gap analysis of SHM research needs and to develop an SHM application that would clearly show the steps to possible approval. As part of the research project, a team consisting of Sandia National Labs AANC, the Boeing Corporation, Delta Air Lines, Structural Monitoring Systems, Anodyne Electronics Manufacturing Corporation were formed and selected the Comparative Vacuum Monitoring (CVM) system as the SHM test program on the B737 Center Wing Box Fitting. The team installed CVM sensors on several Delta Air Lines 737 aircraft, collected lab and flight test data sufficient to convince Boeing to approve this application and become the first successfully approved use of CVM in the civil aviation community. This presentation will discuss the challenges faced by the team and the FAA during its research program and as well as continuing hurdles still being faced for future SHM use on the civil aviation community.


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