Jim Shimp began his engineering career in 1978. He has spent most of his career specializing in engineering inspection solutions for jet engine components. Throughout his career, he has faced countless challenging applications, each one reminding him of the importance of what he does.
Jim relied on his decades of experience three years ago when SNI received a call from a major aircraft engine manufacturer. Just an hour before the call, an engine on a commercial airplane suffered an uncontained failure; the pilot had to perform an emergency landing. In the engine’s first-stage fan section the dovetail of a blade had cracked and disconnected from the rotor disk; this was the second event that occurred involving this type of engine in six months.
The first event also involved a crack in the dovetail of one of the engine’s fan blades; but when the blade liberated from the disk no damage occurred to the main body of the aircraft. Unfortunately, in the second event, the damage was more severe. This time when the blade liberated from the rotor it was propelled forward by the other blades. The engine’s air inlet was destroyed, and flying debris breached the fuselage resulting in one fatality.
After the first event, the engineers at Sensor Networks were tasked by the engine manufacturer to design a transducer that could scan for cracks in the dovetail section of the fan blades, even though the inspection was not yet mandated. After the second event, this engine model was mandated for inspection of the fan blades and given twenty days to do so. If they did not complete the inspection within this timeframe, it was likely planes containing this engine would need to be grounded.
Although SNI had already designed the transducers needed to inspect the engines’ blades, they had not yet built them on a large scale. However, after receiving the call the SNI team banded together to make the kits needed to inspect the planes.
Twelve hundred planes needed to be inspected, a total of twenty-five hundred engines. This required SNI to build 400 kits, with 4 probes in each. Working long days, the SNI team built the 1,600 probes needed to inspect the planes within an extremely short period of time. Cracks were found in engines of other planes; one of these cracks had grown to a size similar to the crack that led to the second event.
While Jim has dedicated his last forty years to aerospace engineering, he has also dedicated it to public safety. With every transducer he has designed, one more engine has been inspected, and one more step has been taken in the direction of public safety.