By Greg Linkert
Over the years many AMTs have asked me, “How does someone get certified for nondestructive testing?” The path to becoming qualified and certified is spelled out in several industry standards: National Aerospace Standard 410, Air Transport Association Specification 105, and The American Society of Nondestructive Testing (ASNT) SNT-TC-1A. Additionally, the FAA has issued Advisory Circular 65-31A, titled Training, Qualification, and Certification of Nondestructive Inspection (NDI) Personnel.
Aircraft maintenance companies are required by the FAA to create nondestructive testing programs describing how they train, qualify, and certify their NDT staff. The FAA also requires employers to include in their program a description of how they recertify these individuals. Most air carriers use the Air Transport Association Specification 105 for training and certification of nondestructive testing (NDT) personnel, while many maintenance repair overhaul (MRO) organizations use the National Aerospace Standard 410. All of these standards are accepted as reference material for the creation of a nondestructive testing program.
Anyone wanting to qualify for nondestructive testing needs to clearly understand the following two terms: qualified and certification. Qualified means having the skill, training, knowledge, experience, and when applicable, the visual acuity required for personnel to properly perform to a particular level. Certification is a written statement by an employer that an individual has met the applicable requirements of the employer’s written practice. These definitions were taken from the National Aerospace Standard 410, which is controlled by The Aerospace Industries Association.
Levels of certification
Each of the previously mentioned industry standards, describe the three basic levels of certification. They are Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3.
Level 1 is the first level of qualification. A Level 1 individual should have the skills and knowledge to process parts and set up applicable equipment in accordance with written instructions provided from a Level 2 or 3.
A Level 2 individual has worked as a Level 1 for the required experience hours and passed the Level 2 qualification tests. They shall have the skills and knowledge to set up, conduct tests, interpret and evaluate signals for accept or rejection of parts, and have the ability to clearly document their inspection findings. They should be thoroughly familiar with the scope and limitations of the technique/method for which they are certified, and capable of providing training and guidance to trainees and Level 1 personnel in the method certified. Level 2 personnel are also required to be familiar with codes, standards, and other contractual documents that control the method as used by the employer.
For Level 3 certification, a Level 2 individual has three ways in which to qualify to test, all of which require the individual to have worked as a Level 2. The first way is the individual must work as a certified Level 2 for at least four years in the specific method. The second way is the individual must have spent two years in an engineering or science program from an accredited technical school, college, or university, and worked at least two years as a Level 2. The third way is for the individual to have graduated or successfully completed a three-year accredited program in engineering or science at a college or university.
Certification training and testing
When accepted for testing by ASNT the individual must first take a basic test covering general information on nondestructive testing. The methods this test covers are eddy current, ultrasound, magnetic particle, liquid penetrant, radiation, neutron radiation, leak testing, acoustic emission, vibration analysis, visual/optical, and thermo/infrared. The individual must also take a test for the specific method that certification is sought.