Ben Walker

Our interviewee for this instalment of People in NDE is Ben Walker, an NDT Engineer apprentice at Rolls-Royce plc who also enjoys sailing, flying and sound engineering…

Briefly describe your current role
I am a second-year NDT Engineer apprentice at Rolls-Royce. My current role as an apprentice has me moving around different areas of the business, spending roughly six months on each placement. While my specific role varies between placements, the main objectives are to build up experience hours in the five main NDT methods and to gain better insight into the business as a whole. While doing this, I am still supporting the team that I am working with by joining in on projects and production roles. This means the support goes both ways.

What education/training route did you follow?
In 2015, while doing my GCSEs, I applied for a Rolls-Royce Practical Advanced Apprenticeship. I was delighted when I was offered a place; however, by this point I had decided that I wanted to stay on and complete my A-Levels instead. I finished sixth form with three A-Levels, in maths, physics and computing, and I received three university offers. I had also re-applied to the Rolls-Royce higher NDT apprenticeship and had been offered a place. It did not take me long to decide that I definitely wanted to take the apprenticeship route over going to university. I chose to take on an apprenticeship because it suited my style of learning and my interests much more than a university course. Also, the apprenticeship is a degree apprenticeship, so I will still get a degree in the end, while gaining lots of practical experience in the 

What other roles/jobs have you had in the past?
I have been interested in the technology and performance side of music from a young age. When I was about 16, the owner of a small sound hire company noticed me volunteering as a sound engineer at an event and he asked me if I would be interested in working for him occasionally. I was never excited by the idea of working in a shop or pub as a part-time job, so being offered a job doing something I really enjoyed sounded like a brilliant opportunity. I have been carrying out sound engineering work for the company ever since, still helping out occasionally purely because I enjoy the work. This is the only other job I have had and I have 
loved doing it.

What do you think are the pressing challenges for the NDT industry?
I think that the NDT industry is constantly under pressure to make improvements and breakthroughs in inspection. There will almost always be a need to detect smaller discontinuities, perform more complex inspections in service or in field and perform inspections in a manner that is faster, cheaper and safer than previously possible. There have already been big advancements in the last few years due to the rapid progression of computing and technology and I think this will continue into the future. One recent example is the development of portable digital detector arrays (for radiography), which can withstand extreme pressures and 

What changes, if any, do you foresee for NDT in the future?
I think that, in the near future, there will be a big change in how inspections are carried out. The possibility of remote inspection has been proven and is starting to be explored by an increasing number of companies and suppliers. This has great potential to become very popular with companies that perform a large amount of field inspection but may have a specialist in a different location to where the inspection is being carried out.

How would you describe NDT to someone who has not heard of it before?
Whenever I get asked what job I do, the answer ‘NDT’ is usually met with a puzzled look. On the spot, I will simply say that NDT is trying to find tiny cracks that you cannot see. One of the better explanations I have heard is that NDT is utilising devices and techniques to extend the human senses past what we can normally see or sense. By doing so, we can find defects that are normally hidden, without affecting the serviceability of the 

Outside of NDT, what are your interests and hobbies?
I have a few hobbies outside of work, including sailing and aviation. My brother and I sail on a reservoir at our local sailing club. As well as flying model aircraft and drones, I was offered a flying scholarship in 2017 by The Air League Trust. This enabled me to take enough flying lessons to complete my first solo flight. Other hobbies of mine include playing guitar and sound engineering. A lot of the physics that is involved in live sound engineering and design crosses over with the physics involved in ultrasound, just at a much lower frequency!

Please get in touch if you have any recommendations for future interviewees or would like to be interviewed yourself. Contact the editor at or email Maria Felice direct at

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