JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Fluorescent stains spatter the floor and surfaces throughout a room illuminated by a black light.
A man in an opaque blue mask and a black apron hovers over a bath foaming with neon liquid. He reaches into the concoction, and pulls out an dripping metal gear for inspection.
The Airmen of the 437th Maintenance Squadron Non-Destructive Inspection shop use diagnostic procedures to determine if parts of an aircraft are developing structural integrity issues.
“It’s hard to say how many possible lives we have saved through early detection,” said Tech. Sgt. John Price 437th MXS NDI NCO in charge. “We are able to identify the extent of microscopic fractures and deficiencies. Even if there is an obvious flaw, we still need to observe the full extent of the damage. The damage may be more than what can be seen by the naked eye, so we test it to ensure structural maintainers can provide the strongest repair possible.”
Fluorescent penetrant testing is a reliable way to illuminate fractures on the surface of damaged parts and allow the NDI Airmen to examine the materials of the C-17 Globemaster III fleet here for cracking, disbonding or delamination.
“We’re looking for stuff you can’t see,” said Tech. Sgt. Ryan Michalec, 437th MXS NDI technician. “If you’re looking at a part, you may have no idea there’s a crack on there unless you specifically knew where and what to look for during a test.”
The NDI shop is able to check the largest and smallest pieces of an aircraft. Once a deficiency is found, they relay the problem to the aircraft structural maintenance unit for repair. If a crew chief or a member of the aircrew identifies a potential issue, NDI Airmen perform diagnostic procedures to gather data to assist in the repair.
“Without fixing a flaw in an aircraft’s infrastructure the possibilities of an in-flight emergency become more and more prevalent,” said Senior Airman Brett Gyurnek 437th MXS NDI technician. “Even though I knew very little about NDI when I joined, I have really grown to love it and see the importance of it.”