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Highly curved composite aerospace components are very difficult to inspect using the typical inspection techniques available in the factory or maintenance depot, and much less so in the field. This results in designing these aircraft structures to accommodate potentially large defects, which results in additional weight and cost. TRI Austin, along with Iowa State University’s Center for Nondestructive Evaluation (CNDE), developed nondestructive evaluation (NDE) techniques and analyses suitable for the whole life cycle management of highly curved composite components like leading edges and chines. Our NDE techniques and accompanying data analysis starts at production with initial, high capital intensive, high technology inspections. The following inspections at depot and field environments are analyzed in the light of the original data for the range of in-service issues. Finally, defect assessment capabilities were developed using modeling and experimental data. This more accurate sizing in plane and in depth, and understanding of local properties in a defect or damage volume, enables better maintenance decisions.

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