The Fleet Readiness Center East (FRCE) (Cherry Point, North Carolina, USA), an aviation repair and maintenance facility for Navy and Marine Corps aircraft, recently hosted a demonstration of the Grey Gecko Real-Time Inspection Tool (GRIT). This tool, which helps identify corrosion through many aircraft coatings, is part of FRCE’s mission to examine new possibilities for quickly and accurately detecting corrosion, as well as preventing its spread.
“Corrosion is a recurring theme across all forms of aviation, resulting in huge cost and fleet availability impacts,” says Matt Crisp, FRCE site lead for the F-35 Joint Program Office, who organized the event. “Current detection methods for most aircraft involve visual inspection using traditional tools. These inspections are time consuming, sometimes require additional efforts like removing paint, and can be highly subjective based on inspector techniques, experience and attention to detail.”
Corrosion is a fact of life for those who operate military aircraft, as they are often deployed in some of the planet’s most extreme conditions and demanding scenarios. Thus, a tool like GRIT that can help reliably identify corrosion through aircraft coatings has the potential to facilitate faster, less objective inspections and increase aircraft availability.
“The idea is to produce clear, easily understandable pictures of damaged areas that can be immediately shared with leadership, maintainers, investigators and customers,” says Ron Stearns, business development director at Grey Gecko. “It’s designed to be used plane-side by traditional maintenance personnel, and to complement phased non-destructive inspection intervals. One of the things that we're very proud of is that it can act as a vector to enhance or better target other methods that are prescribed in the maintenance manuals.”
Using a mid-wave infrared camera, GRIT is able to visually penetrate aircraft coatings and record images of the surface below. According to Grey Gecko, using GRIT for non-destructive inspection can reduce aircraft downtime caused by corrosion by up to 25% and reduce the inspection manpower requirement by more than 50% in some applications.
The F-35 Lightning II program at FRCE hosted a demonstration of GRIT that included a multidisciplinary group of engineers and members of the Naval Air Systems Command Advanced Technology and Innovation (ATI) Team. This equipment demonstration, the first hosted by the F-35 program, provided opportunities to discuss the tool with Grey Gecko designers and gain first-hand experience in testing it.
“Many on-site demos give you an opportunity to get hands-on experience with a technology, compare it to your use case, as well as look for additional opportunities to test it out on,” says Jamaine Clemmons, ATI Team lead at FRCE. “The vendor was able to demo their capability for the stakeholders to detect corrosion under paint on a few panels that were pre-corroded and painted over to various thicknesses.”
Continues Clemmons, “Understanding that this was the main capability of the technology, we wanted to take the opportunity to test it out on various primers, topcoats, and thicknesses for multiple platforms to better evaluate the system and look for opportunities for refinement and expansion with the utilization of the tool. That’s the beauty of developing, maturing, advancing, and refining a technology. My team is currently in the process of gathering feedback from all the stakeholders in attendance and providing that feedback to the company for potential further development and expansion into other coatings.”
Source: DVIDSHub, www.dvidshub.net.