Renowned FAA airworthiness assurance center transfers to WSU’s NIAR


A widely acclaimed program for aircraft inspection, maintenance and airworthiness research is landing at Wichita State University’s National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) after a 30-year history at Sandia National Laboratories.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Airworthiness Assurance NDI Validation Center (AANC) is focused on aircraft safety and reliability; development of advanced design and maintenance; evaluation of new and enhanced techniques; technology transfer; and rulemaking guidance. It will move to NIAR’s Advanced Technologies Laboratory for Aerospace Systems, maintaining its name and affiliation with the FAA. The planned move supports shifts in structure at both Sandia and the FAA.

The move includes the transfer of test specimens, custom tools, new inventions, an aviation document library and $260,000 in equipment for composite and metal bond inspection, flaw detection, and structural bonding. It also opens the opportunity to collaborate with former AANC lead engineer Dennis Roach.

“The AANC has a renowned reputation in the NDI industry,” said AANC program manager Caleb Saathoff. “We are eager to evaluate the current state of the center to develop a path to provide services to the full array of AANC customers and continue its legacy at NIAR.”

Over the years, the center collaborated with staff from aircraft manufacturers, airlines, regulatory agencies, universities and industry to develop inspection and maintenance systems for airplanes. The original focus was on developing nondestructive inspection techniques for aging airplanes and then grew to include airworthiness assurance needs throughout the lifetime of all aircraft 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.

Wichita State University serves as the Kansas urban-based research university, enrolling more than 15,000 students from every state in the U.S. and more than 100 countries. Wichita State and WSU Tech are recognized for being student centered and innovation driven.

Located in the largest city in the state with one of the highest concentrations in the United States of jobs involving science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), Wichita State University provides uniquely distinctive and innovative pathways of applied learning, applied research and career opportunities for all of our students.

The Innovation Campus, which is a physical extension of the Wichita State University main campus, is one of the nation’s largest and fastest-growing research/innovation parks, encompassing over 120 acres and is home to a number of global companies and organizations.

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About NIAR
Wichita State University’s National Institute for Aviation Research provides research, testing, certification and training for aviation and manufacturing technologies. Established in 1985, NIAR has a $125 million annual budget; 850 staff and one million square feet of laboratory and office space in four locations across the city of Wichita, the Air Capital of the World. NIAR laboratories include Additive Manufacturing, Advanced Coatings, Advanced Manufacturing, Aging Aircraft, Ballistics/Impact Dynamics, CAD/CAM, Composites/Advanced Materials, Crash Dynamics, Environmental/Electromagnetic Test, Full-scale Structural Test, Nondestructive Test, Reverse Engineering, Robotics/Automation, Virtual Engineering, eXtended Reality and the Walter H. Beech Wind Tunnel.