When you get on a commercial airplane, you take for granted that the airline has complied with all safety requirements and that you’re going to have a safe flight. Commercial flights are indeed staggeringly safe, and airlines are using more and more technology to keep them that way. Here are some of the ways that modern aircraft are regularly inspected to protect passengers and flight crew.
The body of the airplane — called the fuselage — undergoes severe loading because it is pressurized and depressurized during every flight. This can cause cracks to develop in the metal surface of the fuselage and a loosening of rivets and other types of joints. Airplane inspectors have high-tech equipment to help them scan for cracks. Some of these cracks are visible to the naked eye, but microscopic cracks can be even more dangerous, which is why modern equipment is required.
Inspectors also use laser doppler vibrometers to identify loose rivets. The use of vibrometry for inspecting rivets significantly improves the safety of this process. Human error can contribute to missing loose rivets when only visual inspections are used. Laser doppler vibrometers allow for an objective and quick scan of all riveted connections, simultaneously speeding up the inspection process while improving its reliability.
Turbofan engines require various types of inspections on specific schedules. Along with frequent visual inspections during pre-flight safety checks, commercial jets are required to undergo more thorough safety scans after every 100 flight hours. Technicians can use electronic tools such as boroscopes to see inside the engine without having to take it apart. The extremely high rotational speeds that engines spin at can put a lot of stress on the moving engine parts. Inspecting for any internal damage can allow repairs to happen before anything is able to fail and put passengers at risk.
Even the cabin components of commercial aircraft are inspected before each flight. The crew must ensure that such elements as cabin lighting, bathrooms, and onboard safety supplies are in working order before the plane can take off. The pilots and other flight crew work from the same preflight safety checklist every time they prepare to fly. This reduces the risk of human error during the inspection process and ensures that nothing is overlooked.
Flight safety is of utmost importance, and inspections help keep the commercial airline industry safe for passengers and flight crew alike. Modern tools can improve inspection techniques and allow safety checks to happen more quickly.