Longtime Sandia Labs airline safety research center moving to Wichita State University


Sandia National Laboratories’ Dennis Roach, left, and Ken Harmon (retired) examine the inside of a Boeing 737 for long-term structural fatigue. Nondestructive techniques allow inspectors to assess the integrity of aircraft structures without disassembly. (Photo by Randy Montoya)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A decades-old program at Sandia National Laboratories that focused on new innovations in airplane inspection will be taking flight elsewhere.

The Albuquerque-based weapons research and development facility announced Tuesday that the Federal Aviation Administration Airworthiness Assurance Center will relocate to Wichita State University.

The program will be part of the university’s National Institute of Aviation Research. Officials say the move follows structural shifts at both Sandia and the FAA.

Sandia Labs has operated the center for the FAA for 30 years.

Under the program, researchers worked alongside aircraft manufacturers, industry experts and regulatory agencies to enhance airplane inspection and maintenance systems.

“Our goal was to develop the technology, prove the technology and, just as importantly, transfer the technology to industry so it could be used routinely to ensure flight safety,” said Senior Scientist Dennis Roach, Sandia’s lead engineer at the center. “The AANC at Sandia became a trusted source of unbiased technology development and validation for an array of programs.”

The center supported a wide range of airplane safety and reliability and new technology application concerns, including operations, structural repair, advanced materials, corrosion monitoring and control, human factors, engine and fuel systems, landing gear, mechanical and electrical systems, structural modeling and analysis, sensor and instrument development, crashworthiness, aircraft certification, information processing and analysis, accident investigation, regulatory and advisory oversight requirements, failure analysis and systems safety.

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