How are jet engines inspected? Students learn how to spot aircraft issues

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DENVER (KDVR) — Saturday marks one week since United Flight 328 suffered a catastrophic engine loss just outside Denver.

No one was hurt, but the video of that aircraft engine burning has caused a lot of worry. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) suspects a fan blade may have come apart causing the explosion.

FOX31 received many questions about how jet engines are inspected. Colorado Northwestern Community College showed us what it’s like to inspect aircraft in the Aircraft Maintenance Program. We saw a student learning how to find the tiniest of cracks, invisible to the naked eye, on a jet engine blade. 

The student used a fluorescent dye that will glow and point out potential problems. 

Ty Harrison is the aviation maintenance technician program director. His passion is to teach students to keep aircraft safe in the skies. One of the inspections he showed us uses a fluorescent dye. 

“(It’s done) just to ascertain as to whether we do have something there. Are our eyes telling us that we truly have that crack? This test is going to verify that,” said Harrison. 

Using another technique, technician students go deep into engines with a roto-rooter-type scope that sees the unseen. 

“We’re looking for cracks, dents, tears just to name of few of the things we look for inside the engines,” said Harrison. 

The tests are similar to what investigators use to help determine aircraft problems. In another test, a giant magnet helps illuminate agents that highlight trouble spots. 

It’s all in a day’s work at this college: techniques that keep planes flying and figuring out what’s wrong when they don’t.

Some of these students could eventually be working for FAA or NTSB investigating aircraft crashes.

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