What is First Article Inspection?

In the implementation of AS9100 Rev D to create your aerospace Quality Management System (QMS), you will come across the requirements for first article inspection (FAI), which is also known as process verification, and you might wonder what this is and how it applies to you.

So, what is an FAI?

What is a first article?

“First article” is the term used to describe the product used in the first article inspection process. For the FAI process to be valid, your first article product needs to be taken from the first production run of your processes. From this production run, which has been performed with all the processes as they are intended to be used in regular production, you will choose one sample part (typically at random) that will represent what your production processes can create during use; your production processes being all of the processes for the total manufacturing process for your product. This sample part will become your first article, and will then be the “gold standard” to represent what the processes create as they are currently planned.

What is first article inspection?

Once you have your first article chosen, the first article inspection can take place, which is more than just a quality control step. For the first article inspection, you will want to take all necessary measurements, and perform all necessary tests, to show that all requirements for the product are met as per the specifications. Once you have done this complete inspection, under the assumption that your processes are consistent and under statistical control, you will have confidence that when you run your processes during the standard production run you will get products that meet all requirements. FAI verifies the manufacturing process as well as the quality control inspections for the product.

The importance of first article inspection

Now that you know that your processes as run under standard operating parameters will give you a product that meets all requirements, you and your customer can have confidence that the products you create will meet their intended purpose. The FAI process validates not just the processes, but also the production documentation and tooling used in the production. The importance of this FAI validation is to ensure that you have identified and implemented the appropriate processes, and related documentation and tooling, to meet the needs of the customer for your product, and that these needs will be consistently met throughout production.

For more on how to conduct the first article inspections, see the article How does First Article Inspection fit into AS9100 Rev D?

Does ISO 9001 require first article inspection?

While AS9100 is based on the ISO 9001 standard, the requirements for FAI are part of the aerospace-specific requirements added, and can be found in clause, Production process validation. ISO 9001 does require that you have your operational processes defined and controlled; however, the very specific requirement to perform and record the inspection of an article from the first production run is not included as a required verification process.

What is the AS9102 first article inspection?

AS9102 is a reference document within AS9100 that gives a standardized FAI process that can be used for first article inspections. It is important to note that AS9102 is not required to be used, unless specifically required by a customer, but it is a well-thought-out and consistent process to use if you do not already have a process in place for this verification activity. The AS9102 standard includes not only the FAI process instructions, but also a set of standardized forms to be completed and used as your first article inspection report.

You can learn a bit more about AS9102, and how it supports AS9100 Rev D, in the article: How do AS9101, AS9102, & AS9103 relate to AS9100 Rev D?

How to create a first article inspection report

Since your first article inspection is demonstrating that all requirements are met for the product, your first article inspection report needs to include the necessary evidence to prove this for each requirement. While AS9102 is not a required FAI process to follow per AS9100, there is a standard AS9102 form included to serve as your first article inspection report. A simple five-step process for completing the report is displayed in the diagram below, beginning with gathering necessary requirements and documentation, creating the inspection plan, and finishing with the completed report that is based on inspection of the first article.

Why is First Article Inspection important and how to do it

The three forms provided as part of AS9102 are:

Form 1: Part Number Accountability – This first form includes all of the information to describe the part or assembly that is being verified in the FAI. This includes all documentation used (including revision levels), serialization of the product, organizational name, part name & numbers, and a listing of all parts in an assembly (with traceability information) where this is applicable. Form 1 also includes approval information or the completed FAI report.

Form 2: Product Accountability – Form 2 includes all information on the raw material used in the product, specification information, and details on special processes used. Details for all function test procedures are also included, to indicate exactly which revision of testing was performed.

Form 3: Characteristic Accountability – This final form includes the verification and evaluation of every characteristic identified for the product, including dimensional and performance requirements. Each characteristic includes the inspection or test results for that characteristic, including gauge identification when these were used, to demonstrate that every single requirement of the product is met by the first article sample. Where nonconformances were identified and accepted, this information is also included.

When to conduct the first article inspection

As has been indicated above, FAI is intended to be done during the first production run for a new product (part or assembly), as a way to demonstrate that the planned processes will provide a product that meets all the required customer needs. In addition, the production process verification requirements of AS9100 indicate some other times that FAI is to be used.

As per the AS9100 requirements, the FAI inspection needs to be repeated whenever a change occurs that will invalidate the original results. This can include a major engineering design change, a change in tooling, or a change in the major production process parameters. In short, when a major change happens that could alter the product being produced, you need to re-verify the production processes using the FAI process.

Remember, first article inspection is there to prove that you can meet all requirements, so whenever this may be in question, the FAI process should be repeated.

For a better understanding of first article inspection and all the other AS9100 Rev D requirements, see this white paper: Clause-by-clause explanation of AS9100 Rev D.

Advisera Mark Hammar
Mark Hammar
Mark Hammar is a Certified Manager of Quality / Organizational Excellence through the American Society for Quality and has been a Quality Professional since 1994. Mark has experience in auditing, improving processes, and writing procedures for Quality, Environmental, and Occupational Health & Safety Management Systems, and is certified as a Lead Auditor for ISO 9001, AS9100, and ISO 14001.