49th EMS NDI Airmen aim to detect aircraft structure problems

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Nicholas Paczkowski
  • 49th Wing Public Affairs
Across the Air Force nondestructive inspection flights are charged with ensuring aircraft structural integrity but what sets Holloman Air Force Base’s NDI flight apart from the others is the 14,600 flight hours that training pilots put in each year and with that comes a lot more inspections.
The nondestructive inspection, or NDI, program was established in the Air Force in 1958 with the mission of providing safe, serviceable, and ready air and space equipment. Here at Holloman, the 49th Equipment Maintenance Squadron continues to improve the quality control for our aircraft.
The 49th EMS NDI flight takes in parts from aircraft on base and uses various forms of equipment and procedures to find discrepancies such as cracks that cannot be seen by the naked eye.
“We make sure that the aircraft can fly by identifying discrepancies,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Kristopher Cyr, 49th EMS NDI journeyman. “Without NDI most jets would form cracks that would just get bigger and then the aircraft would be out of commission.”
There are different methods for finding discrepancies such as x-rays, ultrasonics, penetrants, magnetic particles, and an eddy current. Each one of these methods is vastly different from one another. For example, the eddy current method locates discrepancies by creating a magnetic field around the object and when a discrepancy is located the field gets distorted.
The flight also tests aircraft oil to see if it needs to be replaced by using a Joint Analysis Oil Program or Metal Chip Detector, which tests the composition of the oil to identify any foreign objects, such as metal, that may be in the aircrafts oil.
“I have a really detailed eye and this job helps me to fine tune my skills,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Zachary Thompson, 49th EMS NDI craftsman. “I also love the fact that I have the opportunity to find these discrepancies and to save lives by doing that.”