NDI unit glimpses beyond the naked eye

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Greg Nash
  • 23d Wing Public Affairs
Enclosed in this building, there aren't any signs directing patients moving gingerly due to pain from broken bones waiting to see a radiologist. Nor are there expecting mothers seeking assistance from sonographers.

However, within the confines of the same building, are a special group of maintainers. Similar to medical professionals, they utilize items such as x-rays and ultrasonic equipment, and play a critical role in the health of Moody's aircraft and support equipment.

Approximately 20 personnel assigned to the 23d Equipment Maintenance Squadron non-destructive inspection unit's fabrication flight detect discrepancies in Moody's aircraft and support equipment. Moody's maintainers make up nearly half of the approximate 6,000 personnel on base, and the NDI unit differentiates from the rest of the pack by utilizing special equipment for defects that can't be seen by the naked eye.

"The defects and cracks we have to inspect are microscopic and can't be seen by the human eye," said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Adrian Castillo, 23d EMS NDI section. "The equipment we use allows us to verify and mitigate mishaps from our findings. We do this to ensure the structural integrity of all assigned aircraft and support equipment."

The NDI unit ensures this structural integrity by using the five methods of non-destructive inspections, which consists of the penetrant, magnetic particle, eddy current, ultrasonic and radiographics to perform preventative maintenance.

"Whether being called to the flightline or having a part brought into the shop, we perform preventative maintenance to verify possible defects or cracks," said Castillo. "For example, our ultrasonic system allows us to induce sound in a part with a transducer which sends and receives sound. When noise doesn't respond, we know there's a defect and can determine that there's an actual crack. We also use x-rays so we don't have to take a structure apart when looking for a crack."

The equipment the unit utilizes values over $1 million and is vital in their ability to conduct up to 250 inspections per month. One of the most essential aspects of their inspections includes the joint oil analysis program.

"One of our most important processes we do is the joint oil analysis program, which is a Department of Defense program," said Castillo. "When the aircraft take their first flights of the day, oil samples are taken from both engines and with those samples, we analyze them in our lab with the spectrometer. What the spectrometer does is burns the oil and from that process, it measures the light that comes from the sample. From there, the machine determines what type of wear metals are in the actual sample."
The JOAP is used to identify high readings in elements such as iron which identifies an error in the engine due to wear metals it also identifies other key elements to troubleshoot and fix the issue.

"Once the machine is turned on, the burning flames read the intensity of light to meet element parts per million requirements to see if something is wrong," said Airman 1st Class Tony Alvizuri, 23d EMS NDI fabrication flight journeyman. "The elements pay most attention to are aluminum, silver, and steel which helps determine if there are engine problems."

Looking beyond the surface and seeing beyond the naked eye to ensure that Moody's aircraft and support equipment perform to optimum standards is something the NDI unit takes pride in.

"Being hands on with all of Moody's aircraft using the different processes in the NDI is fun," said Castillo. "We aren't just limited to one thing and actually ensuring that we perform reliable inspections, we know the mission is going to get accomplished which is important to us."