What is a First Article Inspection Report and why is it important?
09 March 2021
First Article Inspections are a requirement in the aerospace and defence industry. As detailed in the AS9102 standard, they are carried out to ensure that products are manufactured to the correct specifications. Organisations must also be able to evidence this, which is where the First Article Inspection Report comes in. But what is a First Article Inspection Report?
This serves as a quick guide to First Article Inspection Reports (FAIR), and why compliance with this standard is important to your organisation. To properly understand what a FAIR is, let’s start from the beginning – with the First Article Inspection (FAI).
What is a First Article Inspection?
A First Article Inspection (FAI) assesses the quality of one to five items that are selected from the first mass production run for testing. The items are chosen at random and act as a sample for the rest of the production run. If the parts inspected are produced to the exact customer requirements, it will be assumed that every other part will be correct too.
FAIs are incredibly thorough. Manufacturers will examine factors such as measurements and dimensions, equipment, design, and materials, and compare these against the customer’s requirements. Times when the inspections will need to be carried out include when:
- the product is being produced for the first time
- elements of a product’s design are changed
- the manufacturer’s location changes
- production of the part resumes after a hiatus of at least two years
- the production process changes
- a customer requests it
If a part fails the FAI, the product will go back to pre-production so that the problems can be addressed. However, if all goes well and the FAI is passed, the mass production run can recommence.
What is a FAI report?
A First Article Inspection Report (FAIR) is documentation that proves a product has been manufactured to the required specifications.
In the aerospace and defence industry, the report must consist of three forms. Let’s break down the purpose of each form and what they should contain.
Form 1: Part Number Accountability – identifies the product part that is being examined during the FAI, as well as the related sub-assemblies or detail parts
Form 2: Product Accountability – sets out all materials, specifications, processes, and any functional tests that are stipulated as a design requirement
Form 3: Characteristic Accountability – summarises each design characteristic of the FAI parts. For instance, dimensions, tolerances, drawing notes, measurements and the results are noted here. A Balloon Drawing is also required on this form.
Balloon Drawings – these drawings, sometimes called a Bubble Drawing, support Form 3 by confirming that every design characteristic meets the requirements. The drawings are each given a number that corresponds to the design characteristic numbers on Form 3.
Additionally, a FAI report will usually contain other information such as the part name and number, the name and signature of the individual who conducted the FAI, the date the form was completed, and customer approval.
Why is a First Article Inspection Report important?
Imagine that a commercial airline has asked you to produce a part for one of their aircraft engines. Manufacturing this part demands precision and accuracy; if the dimensions or any other aspect of the design fail to meet the airline’s specification, the part will be unsuitable.
Now imagine that you do not check any of the parts from the first production batch. Later, you discover that there is a problem with the measurements. All the parts are unacceptable and must be remade, causing delays to the entire production process. Not only that, but resources have been wasted too.
Failing to conduct an inspection was an expensive error to make, and that’s why an in-depth FAI is imperative to your organisation. It enables you to detect errors in the manufacturing process early on and avoid products being produced to incorrect or insufficient standards. This saves time, money, and resources.
Furthermore, producing an accurate FAI report will reassure customers that their products will be manufactured efficiently and precisely to their specifications. You can also then be confident in your mass production process – and the industry requirements as per AS9102 will be satisfied too.
The benefits of FAIR software
Producing a First Article Inspection Report can be an involved process. There are a lot of high-precision details to document, which can potentially lead to mistakes being made. Manually creating Balloon Drawings can also be an onerous and lengthy task. Having a FAIR software solution can alleviate some of this pressure by helping you to meet the requirements of AS9102, including balloon drawings and visual mistake-proofing.
Now that you have an understanding of ‘what is a First Article Inspection Report’ and what it involves, find out more about how our software solutions can help the aerospace and defence industry.