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01 Feb 2022
Striving for perfection

Behind every safe flight is a team of experts dedicated to the painstaking inspection and testing of aircraft parts and components for potential damage or flaws. Lei Yue, Vice President – NDT Service Centre at HAECO Xiamen, is one of the best in his field.

An aircraft is an extremely complex system made up of more than a million parts and components. Even a minor problem within the system could potentially lead to an incident. Non-destructive testing (NDT) is a way to detect and evaluate flaws in materials and is an important way of ensuring the structural integrity and airworthiness of an aircraft during the design, manufacture, and maintenance stages. 

Striving for perfection

Having played a role in the development of NDT standards for the aviation and aerospace sectors on the Chinese Mainland, Lei Yue is both a pioneer and an advocate of the wider application of new inspection technologies. NDT requires comprehensive knowledge of aircraft engineering. Lei holds the highest qualifications from the Civil Aviation Administration of China, the European Aviation Safety Agency and the US Federal Aviation Administration, and is one of the leading NDT experts in the country.

What motivated you to become an aircraft engineer?

I graduated from university in 1998, majoring in physics and electronic technology. The aircraft engineering industry was booming at that time, and I was intrigued by this fascinating sector, which also happened to match my qualifications and aspirations.

What has kept you with HAECO Xiamen for nearly 23 years?

I’ve learned a lot while working here. The company’s training programmes have given me numerous opportunities to go abroad and learn from overseas experts in aircraft engineering. I’ve had ample access to advanced aviation knowledge, professional skills, and inspection equipment, which has been crucial to my career development. 

I did have a difficult choice to make about which aviation company to join after graduation - but HAECO Xiamen stood out. HAECO had a definite advantage with its capability on a wide range of aircraft, comprehensive range of services, and international clientele. It gave me a wider platform for career development as I started out.

What do you like most about your job and what are you most proud of?

I love all of my work! NDT engineers are like aircraft doctors: we conduct different tests and analysis, including radiography, magnetic particle and infrared thermography to identify structural problems that may not be visible to the naked eye. A loose screw or a crack ten times thinner than a human hair could pose a major safety risk to an aircraft. The most challenging part of our work is to achieve 100% detection rate. To excel, one has to be analytical, detail-minded, resilient and enjoy problem solving. As technology is constantly evolving, we also need to ensure that we stay abreast of the very latest developments.

I also enjoy passing on my experience to up-and-coming trainee technicians, in the knowledge I am contributing to the future of the aviation industry. My team has taken part in a non-destructive testing project to develop a more feasible scheme to ensure continuous airworthiness for the Chinese aviation industry. During its research and development phase, a lot of work was required in terms of manual preparation, experimental data sampling and analysis, as well as manual verification. I’m very proud to be a part of this project.

I love all of my work! NDT engineers are like aircraft doctors.

Aircraft maintenance certainly has a very low margin for error, how do you cope with stress?

I cope with pressure at work in four ways. First, time management: it is my practice to prioritise things and start with more important and pressing ones. Second, I focus on improving myself and my team’s capabilities, as I know our stress levels will naturally reduce once we master our work. Third, I maintain a great relationship and communicate well with my colleagues, so I can seek their assistance when I am under pressure. Last but not least: daily exercise! I enjoy jogging while listening to soothing music to relax my body and mind, so that I can return to work every day full of energy.

What is your advice for young people pursuing a career in aircraft engineering?

As you demonstrate excellence in your work, you will receive more opportunities for growth and promotion. Keep learning and sharpening your skills, and you will stand out from the crowd.