There are numerous factors that can cause damage to aircraft including rough landings, hail storms, turbulence and more. An especially significant threat to aircraft, are bird strikes. A bird strike or BASH (Bird Aircraft Strike Hazard) involves a collision between an aircraft and an airborne animal – typically a bird or a bat.

Pitot tubes are highly susceptible to damage during a bird strike due to their location on aircraft.

Bird strikes can cause a great deal of damage – the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) estimates that bird strikes cost approximately $400 million annually in the U.S. alone. The point of impact for bird strikes are typically any forward-facing edge or component such as the nose cone, engines, wing leading edges or pitot tubes. In this post, we focus specifically on pitot tube damage and replacement, and how using a laser tracker, a metrology engineer can very quickly provide the geometric data needed for the installation of a new pitot tube.

Pitot tubes are most often located on the wing or front section of an aircraft which makes them especially susceptible to damage from bird strikes. Even though they are fairly small components, they are critical to aircraft instrumentation, providing analog airspeed information. Airspeed is a factor of dynamic air pressure which is determined by subtracting a static pressure reading from the pitot tube’s total pressure reading. 

When damaged by a bird strike or other collision, it is imperative that pitot tubes are repaired quickly and accurately. The most critical feature of the geometry is the position and alignment of the tube relative to the aircraft fuselage. Pitot tubes must be perfectly parallel to the airflow in the aircraft’s slipstream.

Metrology engineer gathers measurement data on helicopter using a Leica AT960 laser tracker and T-Probe.

OASIS has provided pitot tube inspection and alignment services to several carriers whose aircraft have suffered bird strike damage. Using one of our portable Leica AT960 laser trackers, an OASIS metrology engineer begins by establishing a reference on the aircraft by measuring features with known coordinates; typically rivet locations. The pitot tube or the mounting components of the tube, are then positioned to the coordinates specified by the aircraft maintenance manual. 

With the advanced capabilities of the Leica AT960 laser trackers, including 6DoF (Six Degrees of Freedom) and hand held T-Probes, the speed and accuracy with which one metrology engineer can capture data allows for fast
turnaround time – typically less than one day. Traditional aircraft alignment procedures were time consuming and complicated and required at a minimum, a team of two field engineers to perform the inspection. 

With speed and accuracy being of the utmost importance in order to quickly return an aircraft to service after a bird strike, hiring a 3D metrology solutions provider that utilizes only the newest and most innovative metrology tools can provide an immense benefit to aircraft carriers.

For more information on OASIS 3D Metrology Services for the Aerospace industry, please contact us. Be sure to subscribe to our Industry Blog for news from the precision measurement industry, technology reviews, case studies and more!

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