Charles Hellier is not optimistic about the state of the NDT industry. This NDT veteran, now officially retired, says, "I leave NDT feeling that, even with all the efforts, we're really not hitting the mark."

The implosion of the Titan submersible is just one instance of tragedy that NDT might have been able to prevent, he says. Hellier says that there was "no real evidence that the proper nondestructive tests were done. Nothing in the way of codes that were tied back to it. I'm not saying that was the problem," he says, but this tragedy showed how NDT could have helped.

In some respects, he says that the industry is lucky that failures of this magnitude are infrequent.

"One of the benefits we have is there haven't been a whole lot of catastrophic failures that can be blamed on improper application of NDT or use of unqualified personnel," Hellier says. "I think we've been fortunate that there haven't been more events that can be blamed on the lack of proper NDT."

"There's a lot of NDT done, not necessarily done by properly qualified people," he says.

Nonetheless, better training would benefit practitioners and the industry as a while, and training could be improved in a myriad of ways. "I'm disappointed in the way that some of the training is done in NDT," he says. "I hope there's some way of improving it."

With all of the certification programs, he says they specify hours of training but not the quality of it. Quality of training is, of course, difficult to measure, but it shouldn't be in how many students pass the exam, he says. "The real success of an NDT training course is an evaluation of how effectively the person performs the work."

How can this be changed?

Hellier offers a few ideas, starting with certifications vs. recommended practices.

According to ASNT, "The Recommended Practice No. SNT-TC-1A: Personnel Qualification and Certification in Nondestructive Testing (2020) provides guidelines for employers to establish in-house certification programs for the qualification and certification of NDT personnel."

One of the big problems we've had is that SNT-TC-1A is a recommended practice, Hellier says. "From the very beginning, I, along with others, felt it should have been a code or standard," Hellier says. By calling it a recommended practice, it seems as if it doesn't have to be followed. Hellier said that he wanted something with more backbone, which lead to the development of CP-189.

The ANSI/ASNT CP-189:2020 ASNT Standard for Qualification and Certification of Nondestructive Testing Personnel standard was one way around this. But it didn't take off as he had hoped.

"I'm disappointed that more people didn't pick up on this," Hellier says.

For years he's also been hoping for a centralized series of examinations, so that certification wouldn't be done the employer. "Right now, most of the NDT certifications are done by the employer," Hellier says. "The employer doesn't have the most unbiased position. If you took the employer out of it, with an independent type of examining body, that would maybe strengthen the whole process of certification."

"We should have had it by now," says Hellier. "It's a very complex issue. It's a problem that I don't think is going to go away anytime soon."

"On a good note, there are a lot of companies that are doing it right. Lot of companies are very serious, with a quality program, written practice, certified personnel, level IIIs, they do it right."

But not everyone will like his ideas, Hellier notes. Some companies will fight centralized certification because of the cost. He says qualified training with certified instructors is a must. A qualified NDT instructor can mean the training is worthwhile and benefit both the student and the industry as a while.

"If only one company is not doing it right," Hellier says, "that's one company too many."