AFRL and partners develop remote access tool for aircraft inspections

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- Mr. Charles Buynak, a research engineer from the Air Force Research Laboratory's Materials and Manufacturing Directorate, recently completed an effort to develop a portable Surgical Nondestructive Evaluation (SuNDE) tool that provides a supplemental field-level aircraft inspection capability for the identification and advanced notification of major structural issues requiring attention during scheduled depot maintenance.

AFRL, partnered with Mercer Engineering Research Center, Southwest Research Institute, and United Western Technologies Corporation, developed a tool that verifies visual damage indications identified in Pre-Induction Inspections (PII) as part of field-level inspections.  System prototype trials were conducted with Air Force Special Operations maintainers at Hurlburt Field, Florida.  As part of an Advanced Technology Demonstration program, the final beta prototype demonstrated the tool's ability to verify visual damage indications found during a PII.

This ability to verify visual damage indications allows for the pre-positioning of replacement parts/components before the aircraft arrives from the field for Programmed Depot Maintenance (PDM).  This tool enhances the C-130 PDM processes by increasing the validity of the pre-induction maintenance data collected, as well as eliminating unnecessary disassembly and inspections of aircraft components during the aircraft's PDM cycle.

"The additional time savings resulting from the elimination of unnecessary work will lead to an increase in aircraft availability and allow depot personnel to more efficiently plan maintenance activities prior to the aircraft arriving at the depot for upkeep," Buynak said.

Work continues with the C-130 Maintenance Requirements Supportability Process office to transition this capability to Air Force Special Operations Command field bases.