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SAE International Creates First-Ever Guidelines for Structural Health Monitoring of Commercial Aircraft

WARRENDALE, Pa., Sept. 24, 2013 - SAE International has created the first-ever industry guidelines for Structural Health Monitoring (SHM) of commercial aircraft.

The document - Aerospace Recommended Practice “ARP6461: Guidelines for Implementation of Structural Health Monitoring on Fixed Wing Aircraft” - was produced by an SAE technical committee consisting of the world’s leading aircraft manufacturers, systems and equipment integrators, regulators, airlines and technical experts.

The guidelines detail the steps necessary to incorporate built-in sensors on aircraft that can monitor such operating conditions as load and stress, as well as the occurrence and extent of damage. Using advanced sensor technology will enable aircraft operators to improve maintenance practices and streamline inspections.

It is the first consensus, industry-wide view of SHM implementation. The publication of the guidelines was the culmination of six years of work by SAE committee G-11SHM, which was launched by Stanford University professor Fu-Kuo Chang. 

The publication of this document is the culmination of six years’ effort from G-11SHM which was launched by Professor Fu-Kuo Chang of Stanford University under the auspices of the AISC and addresses a gap in industry-consensus approaches to of the use of SHM in commercial aircraft. “This is a really important development for the SHM community. We need the input and co-operation from across the industry before SHM can be implemented on aircraft.”

The guidelines establish the scope and essential elements of SHM for commercial aircraft maintenance practices. Also included are advice and discussion on requirements and approaches to validation of SHM systems and the document builds on other recent changes to widely used aircraft maintenance guidance such as the A4A (Airlines for America) document: MSG-3. “These guidelines represent a significant step forward towards reducing the product development risk and enabling SHM technologies to buy their way onto commercial platforms” says Grant Gordon of Honeywell International: the committee’s document sponsor responsible for the drafting and technical content approval process.

The SAE committee has started adapting ARP6461 for implementing SHM in military aircraft applications. In addition, a new rotorcraft SHM subgroup was formed.

From the start, it was clear that the multiple stakeholders and viewpoints on SHM would make the task of achieving a consensus document challenging. “It was a major task to develop this groundbreaking document” says Peter Foote of Cranfield University, the current chair of the committee. “When Professor Chang first formed this group the response and buy-in we got, not just from the industry players, but also the user, regulatory and research community  made it clear that these guidelines were long over-due and a very worthwhile activity” he says.

The document is available on SAE International’s website at

SAE International is a global association committed to being the ultimate knowledge source for the engineering profession. By uniting over 138,000 engineers and technical experts, we drive knowledge and expertise across a broad spectrum of industries. We act on two priorities: encouraging a lifetime of learning for mobility engineering professionals and setting the standards for industry engineering. We strive for a better world through the work of our philanthropic SAE Foundation, including programs like A World in Motion® and the Collegiate Design Series™.


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