US Air Force Nondestructive Inspection Program Office, (AFRL/RXS-OL)

The Air Force required an independent third party to assist in reviewing and updating their nondestructive evaluation procedures and tools, which are used to maintain the Air Force’s high standards for flight safety and aircraft maintenance.

The Air Force chose the Advanced Materials, Manufacturing and Testing Information Analysis Center (AMMTIAC), with basic center operations (BCO) operated by Alion,  not only for its technical expertise in non-destructive evaluation (NDE) technologies but also for the unique perspective afforded by the IAC through its knowledge of Air Force tech orders and procedures, accrued throughout the years as part of its information collection mission. We reviewed inspection procedures for several aircraft, including the A-10, B-52, C-5, C-130, F-15, KC-135, and T-38; observed the practices of inspection personnel in the field for each platform; and then updated inspection procedures, accordingly. Our experts also evaluated the efficacy of current inspection tools and subsequently developed prototypes of improved inspection probe kits. Lastly, we performed a Quality Assurance Proficiency Assessment (QAPA) on these prototype tools to validate their capabilities and speed their transition to the fleet.

Our collective efforts will improve the detection limits of more than 75 procedures as well as the reliability of all inspections audited. The results indicate that the new prototype Raised Head Fastener (RHF) probes improve the crack detection capability by 60% more than the current pencil probes, while improving the inspection speed by a factor of two. Newly prototyped edge probes also improved detection capability by more than 60%. The new surface probes show an improvement of 50% in detection capability and will improve the inspection speed by a factor of four. The data generated and lessons learned during this project are being preserved in AMMTIAC’s library, so that they may be employed in the development of future systems.