When it comes to military aircraft maintenance, corrosion is a fact of life. The Navy and Marine Corps aircraft maintained at Fleet Readiness Center East (FRCE) operate in some of the planet’s most extreme conditions and demanding scenarios, resulting in the need for costly and time-consuming corrosion inspection and repair processes. Now, a team at FRCE is examining new possibilities for quickly and accurately detecting corrosion and preventing its spread. The F-35 Lightning II program at FRCE recently hosted a demonstration of a tool that can help identify corrosion through many aircraft coatings: the Grey Gecko Real-Time Inspection Tool, or GRIT system.
A tool that can help reliably identify corrosion through aircraft coatings could help facilitate faster, less objective corrosion inspections that reduce corrosion growth and associated costs, and increase aircraft availability, Crisp explained. The tool uses a mid-wave infrared camera to visually penetrate the aircraft coatings and record images of the surface below. Grey Gecko estimates use of the 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.
As part of the GRIT demonstration, a multidisciplinary group of engineers from aircraft lines across the depot and members of the Naval Air Systems Command Advanced Technology and Innovation (ATI) Team at FRCE had the opportunity to discuss the tool with its designers at Grey Gecko, and get hands-on experience by testing the tool on various aircraft panels and FRCE’s F-35 maintenance trainer airframe. The demonstration was scheduled to familiarize the group with the product’s manufacturer, evaluate the equipment and its capabilities and limitations, and explore the potential for the tool’s use in both depot and fleet environments.
Hosting product and technology demonstrations presents a win-win situation for both the depot and industry partners. The F-35 maintenance trainer airframe, which arrived at FRCE in March, helped make the GRIT demo a possibility. FRCE is North Carolina’s largest maintenance, repair, overhaul and technical services provider, with more than 4,000 civilian, military and contract workers. Its annual revenue exceeds $1 billion. The depot provides service to the fleet while functioning as an integral part of the greater U.S. Navy; Naval Air Systems Command; and Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers.