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Advancements on the Adoption of SHM Damage Detection Technologies into Embraer Aircraft Maintenance Procedures

RICARDO PINHEIRO RULLI, FERNANDO DOTTA, GABRIEL DE OLIVEIRA CRUZ DO PRADO, DENNIS ROACH, TOM RICE

Abstract


Structural Health Monitoring (SHM) has the potential to revolutionize aircraft maintenance. Less complex and less time-consuming procedures – when compared to current non-destructive inspection (NDI) technologies – allowed by SHM can reduce the amount of time and burden of the inspection tasks and, consequently, reduce costs. Reliable SHM systems will be able to automatically assess structural condition and inform maintenance personnel the presence of a structural flaw. In the long term, when fully automated and integrated, SHM will be able to inform the need for an intervention and to provide targeted information for planning maintenance actions and logistics. This will also allow the improvement of structural performance, and may eliminate certain scheduled inspection tasks. Over the years Embraer has investigated different SHM technologies, and two of them were selected for a more in-depth investigation. After demonstrating strong results on ground tests and in an Embraer- 190 flight test aircraft, Comparative Vacuum Monitoring (CVM) and Lamb Waves (LW) technologies were included in an effort to move SHM, in particular the concept of Scheduled Structural Health Monitoring (S-SHM), into routine use for aircraft maintenance procedures. Embraer teamed with the Airworthiness Assurance NDI Validation Center (AANC) at Sandia Labs and Azul Airlines in a joint effort with Agência Nacional de Aviação Civil (ANAC, the Brazilian civil aviation regulator) for the qualification of SHM technologies and to validate the performance of such systems in real-life operational environment. The work aimed to develop and carry out a qualification process for SHM damage detection systems, which includes laboratory tests for the assessment of detection capabilities in terms of Probability of Detection (POD) and tests with systems installed on a number of aircraft from Azul Airlines. Demonstration of equipment configuration, sensor interrogation procedures, systems’ resolutions, conditions during the execution of inspections, and other aspects, were addressed. A formal process for SHM implementation was reached with the close consultation of the regulatory agency, and the feasibility of the use of SHM systems was also demonstrated to support the validation.

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