Practitioner Profile: Michael L. Carrier


Michael L. Carrier is the senior nondestructive inspector at Textron Aviation. He is an ASNT NDT Level II in UT and MT, and is pursuing Level II certification in PT and VT, as well. Carrier is a graduate of the NDT program at the Southeast Community College, Milford in Nebraska, and is a member of the Air Capital Section. 

Q: How did you begin your career in NDT?

A: I first became involved in NDT in 1989. I really didn't fit the four to six year college degree mold, so I opted for a trade school to obtain a skill. There were a few people from my hometown that attended Southeast Community College, Milford in Nebraska, and I knew that it would be a good fit for me. I started my career in the petrochemical field and have advanced from there, working in the energy sector briefly and aviation for most of my career.

Q: Can you tell us about your certification and training?

A: Most of my training has been on the job, gaining hours and experience. Books can only teach you so much. Hands on experience is where you gain most of your knowledge. Theory is good to a certain degree, as it helps you understand what is going on with the particular method you are using. But most of the day-to-day functions require some sort of interpretation you can't find in text. I do currently hold ASNT Level II certifications in UT and MT. Currently I am working toward obtaining Level II certifications in PT and VT.

Q: Describe the work you do. What are the most valuable methods in your job?

A: A typical day consists of inspecting metal bonded parts using automated ultrasonic through transmission, as well as hand-held resonance equipment for compliance to my company’s specifications. I perform inspections regarding eddy current crack detection and ultrasonic material thickness on reworked parts. Also, I inspect non-conductive coatings on aircraft to prevent damage or failure due to lightning strikes. I also perform visual, magnetic particle, and penetrant inspections on welded assemblies. The most valuable methods in my job are all of them, from VT, PT, MT, UT, ET, and RT. Each has its place, and one is no more important than the other.

Q: What is your working environment?

A: I work in a production/factory environment currently. My job consists of inspecting assemblies from the beginning of the process until the jet goes to the customer for delivery. I have had supervisory roles as well as hands-on roles. I prefer the hands-on jobs because it keeps me fresh and up to date. A technician can read all the articles about methods and developments in a certain discipline, but when you actually put it into practice, that's when you find out if you have the skills to do the job. A former supervisor of mine, Werner Yzelman, is incredibly intelligent. He has the ability to translate his knowledge into practical applications and transfer his knowledge from the drawing board to the field. I admire him for that.

Q: What kind of structures/materials are you testing?

A: I inspect everything from metal bonded structures to composites, as well as non-conductive coatings on composite structures. I also inspect welded assemblies.

Q: Do you work alone or with a crew?

A: We mostly work alone, although we do work in a team environment to share ideas and meet production goals.

Q: What kind of indications are you looking for? 

A: We look for everything from voids, cracks, disbonds, delaminations, mislocations, paint/bond primer thickness, porosity, corrosion, and anything you can think of that would be detrimental to an assembly.

Q: How do you keep up with changes in technology? How important is a background in engineering or mechanical systems to NDT technicians?

A: I keep up with changes by reading periodicals that pertain to my field (aviation) and other sectors where NDT is used. I also get back to the basics, like the texts I had in college.

Q: How important is a college degree?

A: Having a college degree is very important as it transfers with you wherever you go. I have had several certifications at companies I have worked for that were not recognized at the next employer. Hours are necessary, don't get me wrong, but having a college degree gives you that extra step that shows you understand the basic principles and theory. That's another reason why ASNT certification is vital to one's future and advancement in NDT.

Q: What's been your most interesting/unusual application of NDT?

A: My most unusual application of NDT was testing the slip factor on concrete at a major sports venue in Houston, Texas.

Q: How has NDT changed during your career? 

A: NDT has changed completely since I started. There have been more technological advances in the last 10 to 15 years than the previous 100 years.

Q: What trends do you see?

A: I really see a trend in more computerized applications regarding evaluation and automation. We used to have to do calculations and mark out our inspection zones (UT). Now, the instrument does everything for you. Phased array has changed the whole game, as well as the advancements in real time RT. Also, eddy current arrays have changed inspections quite a bit.

Q: What do you consider the growth areas of NDT? 

A: I think that all areas should be considered growth areas. Just because something is an "industry standard," doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement in some way. All industry sectors are open to improvement.

Q: What areas of NDT would you like to learn more about? 

A: I would like to gain more experience in phased array UT and ET arrays.

Q: What are your professional goals? Do you intend to complete additional training?

A: Someday I would like to get my Level III's across the board. I plan on additional training to keep up with current trends. If you don't embrace change, then you will be left behind quickly. However, I see myself doing the inspections more than directing them. I like to work.

Q: What's the best part of NDT? 

A: The best part of NDT to me is going to bed at night knowing that I performed my inspections correctly. Seeing a jet fly off with a family or business owner knowing I did everything I could do to make it a safe and reliable product is very humbling and satisfying. I particularly enjoy meeting customers who own our products and hearing their stories of how our jets improve their productivity or just allow them to spend more time with their loved ones.

Q: What's the most difficult part of NDT?

A: The most difficult part is making a decision and be willing to stand by it. At the end of the day it is up to me to make a final decision on whether an assembly is safe for flight or not. Same thing in the energy sector. When they start up a turbine and you inspected it, it better work. If you say something is good, it better be good. NDT is a small community. You can lose all credibility in an instant.

Q: What can industry do to encourage careers in NDT?

A: Industry and ASNT can encourage careers in NDT by getting more granular. There needs to be more of a presence in high schools. It doesn't have to be in an area where industry thrives. I would suggest looking outside the boundaries of traditional industry zones.

Q: What is the best way for a technician to advance his or her career in NDT?

A: Training, training, training. Don't be afraid to take on additional certifications. It will only help you in the end. You want to market yourself as being value added. Network, network, network. Network with everybody. Be kind to people. It pays huge dividends. And always keep a positive attitude.

Q: What advice would you offer to individuals considering careers in NDT?

A: I would say to anyone coming into the field to get as many certifications as you can. Don't be afraid to get dirty. Experience is gained on the shop floor and in the field. Don't be afraid of it. Embrace it. If you try something and it doesn't work out, fine. Just because you fail doesn't make you a failure. If you choose this career and work hard at it, the future is limitless. It can take you all over the world. Also, you will have a skill that is in demand for most of your life. Network with anyone and everyone you can. You never know when the next great opportunity will come your way.

Michael L. Carrier can be reached at mcarrier@txtav.com.