AFRL develops portable tool for aircraft inspections
- By Kevin McCaney
- Jul 07, 2016
The Air Force is speeding up its ability to repair structural damage to aircraft with a portable system that can inspect aircraft in the field, identifying problems before the aircraft is brought into a depot for repairs.
The Air Force Research Laboratory has developed a tool called the Surgical Nondestructive Evaluation, or SuNDE, which allows for inspection in the field and can provide advanced notice to maintenance depots of what work will be needed what the aircraft arrives, AFRL said.
SuNDE was developed as part of a collaborative effort with Mercer Engineering Research Center, Southwest Research Institute, and United Western Technologies Corp., and represents another effort to extend structural inspections into the field. Last year, AFRL unveiled a handheld imaging tool, called HIT, that can inspect aircraft to ensure they’re safe to fly. That tool, weighing less than 7 pounds and connected to an 11-pound backpack, can replace a 1,200-pound piece of equipment that could be difficult to use in deployed locations.
SuNDE, intended to help maintenance crews anticipate repair work, is being used with the C-130 Hercules transport plane and is intended to verify visual indications of damage, enabling maintenance depot crews to be ready with replacement parts and components.
The system has been tested with Air Force Special Operations at Hurlburt Field, Fla.
"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," said Charles Buynak, a research engineer for AFRL’s Materials and Manufacturing Directorate.
The Air Force is now continuing work with the C-130 Maintenance Requirements Supportability Process office in order to transition the tool to Air Force Special Operations Command field bases, AFRL said.
Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.