Australian company Structural Monitoring Systems' (SMS) comparative vacuum monitoring (CVM) technology could be approved for Boeing's commercial aircraft standard practices manual (SPM) by mid-2006, but only if it passes an evaluation programme funded by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The technology monitors structural integrity and can detect a sub-1mm (0.04in) crack in metal surfaces, measure the crack, monitor bonded surfaces and joints and measure crack initiation and propagation.

A vacuum source creates a localised vacuum and a fixed transducer flow meter monitors local air flow. If there is a material defect, then the vacuum is disturbed and that can be measured.

Evaluation approval would pave the way for the technology to be used by all Boeing commercial aircraft operators.

 As the FAA is funding the programme, technical verification work will be conducted by Iowa State University, while Northwest Airlines and United Airlines will provide aircraft and technical input.

Source: Flight International