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NEWS | Sept. 5, 2007

Nondestructive inspection section keeps C-17s in the air

By Airman 1st Class Nicholas Pilch 437th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

With maintenance being the backbone of Charleston AFB's mission, there are many vertebrae keeping that backbone strong. One of those areas is a team of precise and chemistry-friendly Airmen who support the maintainers and help keep Charleston's 51 C-17s in the air.

The nondestructive inspection section performs nondestructive inspections both aeronautical and non-aeronautical equipment. During the inspections of each part on the C-17, the team utilizes magnetic particle testing, ultrasonic, eddy current, bond testing, radiographic or x-ray, and fluorescent penetrate test methods. Utilizing these test methods, NDI Airmen can locate internal and external discontinuities such as cracks, corrosion, dis-bonds, de-laminations, water entrapment and many other indications on the aircraft parts. Detection of these flaws assists in determination of a part or structure's serviceability.

"The fabrication flight Airmen are the doctors of the maintenance field," said Tech. Sgt. Rodney Koonce, 437th Maintenance Squadron NDI section chief. "NDI goes into the body of the C-17 and finds what's wrong; other specialists within our flight fix those flaws."

Other than finding flaws and getting them fixed, NDI has received many accomplishments throughout the past couple of years. NDI received the award for the best lab in 2006 against 191 other labs in the Air Force and NDI has been validated on numerous technical order improvements. The Airmen have also been recognized for many individual awards as well.

"I joined the Air Force and wanted to be in a medical career field, but none were available at the time," said Senior Airman Alton Lee, 437 MXS NDI specialist. "My recruiter told me about NDI and this is the closest I could get to a medical field and I love NDI because I enjoy taking care of the C-17s."

With NDI being in maintenance, the team will have a challenge with conforming to the new guidelines set from the recent home station check lean event because NDI is currently working only days and swings. The team said they would rather keep the same work hours going instead of having to possibly work nights.

"We are apart of home station check as well as many other maintainers," said Sergeant Koonce. "We inspect every wheel and wheel bolt. If there are cracks on doors or on the body of a C-17, we check those too."

Some of the bigger parts NDI inspects include gear doors and many other hard-to-reach areas on a C-17.

Airman Lee said he likes being in the condor when inspecting the elevator or the t-tail of the C-17 because he likes working in the air.

"I've been in the Air Force for 16 years and have been to six different assignments and none have compared to this lab on Charleston," said Sergeant Koonce. "The Airmen I supervise are good and they know what they are doing and I love my time here because of it."