Joint Base Langley-Eustis

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‘Jet doctors’ diagnose potential disasters; keep pilots, jets safe

By Airman 1st Class Alexandra Singer | 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs | November 17, 2017


People are encouraged to get annual health checks to reinforce building a long, healthy life. For the U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor, those “health checks” are completed each day they fly.

The fifth generation fighter jet’s health is kept up to par thanks to the help of the nondestructive inspection team at Joint Base Langley-Eustis. They are responsible for detecting signs of abnormalities in parts and aerospace ground equipment, related to the F-22 to prevent any mishaps with the jets.

“Everything we do is a process; we make sure the aircraft is good to fly,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. MaQuell Allen, 1st Maintenance Squadron NDI NCO in charge. “A small fatigue crack could turn into a catastrophic failure.”

Like doctors, NDI technicians have many different methods they use to test and diagnose a potential problem.

According to Master Sgt. Nadine DelPalacio, 1st MXS NDI section chief, NDI technicians evaluate aircraft and look for actual wear metal breakdown disruptions in advanced composites of aircraft and the correct electrical currents in parts.

If any abnormalities are found, the component in question is sent to the center that owns the part to let them know about any problems. For example, if a crew chief takes a part to NDI for inspection and something is found, NDI informs that said crew chief. The part may then require further inspection and ultimately be sent for repair.

According to DelPalacio, finding those problems is a science her team must understand the theory behind in order to prevent potential aerial catastrophes. Anyone can dip a part into liquid or run oil for analysis, but the important thing to her is that they are able to see what the results looking back at them say.

“With the skill level we have inspecting our jets, were definitely helping the longevity of the aircraft,” said DelPalacio. “We’re making sure it’s safe and that the structural integrity is intact so we can go out there and fly those missions.”

Ultimately, the most important factor in finding any issues with the jet is pilot safety. “We want to make sure the correct data is being sent with the aircraft,” said DelPalacio. “The big thing is making sure that the aircraft (are sound) and capable of flying, and getting to the mission safely.”

For the 1st Fighter Wing, NDI’s mission is far-reaching as their Raptors not only push the limit in every day training at JBLE, but they also breached the fight in the Middle East and produce a continuous show of force world-wide.

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