ABSTRACT

Environmental and chemical contaminant accumulation within airframes can result in corrosion, equipment damage, and reduced aircraft readiness. Aircraft structures are composed of a wide range of contaminant and corrosion susceptible materials including aluminum, steel, and titanium alloys, as well as composites and specialty coatings. Ingress of contaminants such as corrosive gasses and salts into the structure, occluded areas, and crevices can break down protective coatings and initiate localized corrosion. Ultimately, this may compromise the functionality or structural integrity of the system, component, or airframe. To better ascertain the presence of destructive contaminants, a contaminant detection system has been developed to identify and track the species and concentration of corrosive airframe contaminants. The monitoring system includes point-of-maintenance corrosion management software (ICARR-3D) and data collection hardware created by development partner Mercer Engineering Research Center. The contaminant detection monitoring system provides a solution for locating, identifying, and tracking airframe contamination and corrosion throughout the operational life of the aircraft. Use of this technology allows for improved monitoring of individual aircraft contamination and corrosion as well as fleet-wide trend analyses and condition management. By tracking environmental exposure, contaminants, and corrosivity within targeted areas of airframes and identifying both temporal and geographical patterns of exposure, maintainers can optimize maintenance costs and aircraft operations.

INTRODUCTION

Environmental and chemical contamination has long been a serious concern among military, civil, and commercial aircraft maintainers. Exposure to environmental and chemical contaminants within airframes can result in corrosion, equipment damage, reduced readiness and compromised safety. Aircraft structures are composed of multiple materials including aluminum, steel, and titanium alloys, along with composites and coating systems. Environmental and chemical contaminant ingress into occluded areas and crevices leads to breakdown of coatings and initiation of localized corrosion. This can eventually result in reduced integrity of electrical and mechanical systems or the airframe structure itself.

Within the Air Force, the C-130 is widely used in applications ranging from cargo transportation to special operations due to its versatility. With in excess of 450 aircraft in the Air Force alone, the C-130 represents a significant maintenance challenge in terms of both labor man hours and monetary cost. It is estimated that 37% of all C-130 related fleet maintenance between 2006 and 2010 was focused on identifying and repairing corrosion damage.1 There are a number of locations within the C-130 airframe that are susceptible to corrosion caused by contaminants, including underneath the floorboards at the paratroop door, inside the horizontal stabilizer box, inside of the center wing, and in the main landing gear wheel well. Some of these locations are not readily accessible and corrosive contaminants within can go unobserved until a comprehensive manual inspection is performed.

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