Aircraft Maintenance Inspection Performance & Staff Competence Considerations

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Review by Sofema Aviation Services (SAS)


The role of Aircraft Maintenance Inspector is without any doubt a complex task during which the inspector is required to visually search for multiple defects occurring at varying severity levels and differing locations, some of which may be difficult to reach or to achieve a comfortable position.

As aircraft age they are naturally more susceptible to defects and as a consequence typically require more intensive inspection programs.

Establishing Benchmarks

It is of the utmost importance to maintain the highest level of competence amongst aircraft inspection staff. 

The establishment of inspection performance benchmarks and the determination of the relative consequences of speed & accuracy can improve the effectiveness of existing inspection and maintenance procedures.

Shared Knowledge Improves Inspection Effectiveness

The greater the availability of information regarding potential and previous findings the greater the probability of detection, such information may be provided either by peers or by the system.

Inspectors develop their own expectancies of defect types, probabilities, severities and locations based on prior tasks and hangar wisdom”

Important Note - If these expectations and sources are in error, defects can be missed. Use training and regular discussions of tasks to keep inspectors’ expectancies in line with latest data.

Use of Consistent Terminology

Terminology for describing defects as well as the associated standards can vary between Maintenance Organizations and even between inspectors in the same hangar.

The potential exists if inconsistent terminology is used for errors related to defect reporting to occur and can lead to ambiguities in Non Routine Card (NRC) wording, and possible incorrect rectification action.

The documentation should give the inspector enough information to provide a consistent choice of inspection intensity. Terms such as “general”, “area” and “detailed” may mean different things to different inspectors, despite ATA definitions.

Always encourage inspectors to share inspection findings and experiences Training provides an opportunity to understand to not only consider why events occur but to consider their consequences and to help the inspector consider the impact during different conditions.

Using Similar Structure as a “benchmark” to provide a comparison or reference standard to help judge free play, warping, discoloration etc.

Whilst this may be appropriate on occasion it is not always the case so take care and be open to discussing guidelines during training and recurrent retraining opportunities to avoid potentially “bad” decisions.

Building up a picture related to expectations is a positive - however over reliance on this information can leave gaps related to unusual defects or unexpected conditions.

Inspector Training

Training programs should support the inspector to gain competence and achieve a wide understanding of each defect type and methods to ensure recognition.

Practical Inspection Mentoring Programs are cost effective and can benefit the organisation by providing significant value.

Consider additional training support to provide guidance regarding non-visual standards during training will aid the overall inspection experience.

To promote the highest level of competence requires positive sharing of information analysis and decision making, consider the use of digital cameras and computer-based systems to promote remote decision-making support and guidance.

Aircraft Inspectors, benefit from performance feedback if they are to make decisions effectively. Such mentoring systems can provide a positive level of engagement as well as a positive safety culture.

Further Guidance

Sofema Aviation Services (SAS) and Sofema Online (SOL) provide training for aircraft inspectors delivered as classroom, webinar & online. For Details please email or

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