October 31, 2006

Three Sandia researchers receive ‘Better Way’ Award

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. —Three Sandia researchers together with fellow team members from Delta Airlines, Drexel University, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) William J. Hughes Technical Center were awarded the FAA-Air Transport Association of America (ATA) Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) Forum “Better Way” award this month.

The Better Way award — jointly sponsored by the FAA and ATA — recognizes a team of government and airline industry individuals who collaborate to advance inspection or testing of aircraft structure, components, or systems. ATA is the industry trade organization representing more than 90 percent of all U.S. airlines.

Receiving the award from Sandia were researchers Mike Bode, Floyd Spencer, and David Moore.

Sandia is a National Nuclear Security Administration laboratory.

Moore said the award was for work done over a two-year period. As part of the project, a Boeing 727, flown successfully by Delta for 28 years and decommissioned, was dismantled so that team members could study lap joints — the locations where the skins of aircraft overlap. They then assessed 20 different inspection NDT techniques used by airlines and emerging inspection technologies developed by NDI researchers to determine which were more efficient and worked in a timely fashion.

“The question we were trying to answer was not if the airplane had flaws, but what was the best inspection technique,” Spencer said.

Moore and Bode were on hand after the plane was dismantled, observed inspections, and gathered data. Spencer assisted with the analysis of the data that showed how well the inspection methods worked.

They worked together with representatives from Delta, Drexel University, and FAA Technical Center who shared the award.

The results of their efforts have been documented in a database that will provide end-users at airlines and repair stations with the information needed to make informed decisions about the capabilities of the various inspection techniques.

This is the third year that Sandians have received the Better Way award in collaboration with industry. They also won it in 2003 and 2005.

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Sandia is a multiprogram laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a Lockheed Martin company, for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. Sandia has major R&D responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies, and economic competitiveness.

Sandia news media contact: Chris Burroughs,, (505) 844-0948