Borescopes, the tools that are used to assess the health of everything from engines to airframes, are a mainstay of the aviation industry, from the original equipment manufacturers to the MROs, to the smaller repair stations and FBOs. The technology can yield an almost immediate return on investment if it allows a facility to avoid unnecessary downtime for valuable assets or prevents an accident. The market is mature and highly competitive. The technology moves quickly, tracking advances in areas such as optics and microelectronics.
Aviation is a prime consumer of these remote inspection products. But oil & gas, power production, pharmaceuticals – any industries that use machinery with piping and internal cavities – invest in the technology and drive its advances. There’s also a wide range of capability. At the high end there are scopes that not only let technicians view the turbines of pricey commercial jets but let them measure identified defects to thousandths of an inch.
Mid-tier scopes provide fewer bells and whistles but offer much the same basic remote visual inspection capability. They tend to be used in general aviation and business aviation by smaller aviation maintenance and repair facilities. The equipment is used for inspecting items such as engines – especially the PT6 – wing spars, and landing gear assemblies, says Frank Menza, owner and president of Titan Tool Supply, a distributor that has been in business since 1952.
At the low end are inexpensive and basically disposable products that might be used for very simple tasks but that are not really intended for aviation.
From the low end to the high end prices range from less than $100 to more than $40,000. Customers sometimes employ a combination of high-end and mid-tier scopes to meet different needs. “A lot of aviation maintenance and repair facilities don’t need a $30,000 to $40,000 scope,” Menza says. Titan sells video scopes in the $3,995 to $10,000-$12,000 range, competing in quality, availability, and delivery times. The company offers a combination of video scopes, fiber scopes, and rigid scopes across all of the borescope markets.
Gradient Lens Corp. also competes on price as well as quality and believes in keeping its products simple. “We make a Ford or a Chevy, not a Mercedes,” says Doug Kindred, Gradient’s president and chief scientist. Ninety percent of customers don’t need all the bells and whistles of high-end scopes, he adds. Gradient’s prices start at about $9,000 and go up to about $14,000. In the aviation market the company targets smaller and medium-sized FBOs. Its equipment is used on “a lot of helicopters.” The company’s new Hawkeye V2 video scope includes features such as 5x to 10x magnification – depending on the tip – and 2x digital zoom, plus a 60 degree standard tip. There are two optional tips – a 90 degree tip and a close focus tip with a 60 degree field.