When most people hear the term ultrasound, they might think of the machine that helps monitor the health and development of the early stages of life.
For the airmen of the 60th Maintenance Squadron nondestructive inspections shop, an ultrasound inspection can be surprisingly similar to that.
According to one technician, inside the tail section of a KC-10 Extender is a control box that can be moved up and down, which in turn, causes the elevators on the tail to move. The location of the control box is difficult to get to. The area is cramped, dark and can get warm. However, much like any other aircraft component, it still must be inspected regularly.
“Every KC-10 gets this inspection every 90 days,” said Staff Sgt. Rebecca Linden de Romero, 60th MXS. “We use ultrasound technology to see what is going on inside the panels of the box. The sound reflects through the surface and back to the machine where we can track any cracks or other potential problems the naked eye cannot see.”
To maintain total accuracy, the technicians use standard blocks that are made with the same material and physical dimensions as the parts on the aircraft, Linden de Romero said. These blocks are used to calibrate the ultrasound equipment before the inspection to give the technicians a frame of reference for exactly what they should see.
Linden de Romero commented that the measurements must be precise, as the condition of the plane can be based on them. If the technicians find a problem that deems the aircraft bad, it must go to another base for higher-level repair.
Accuracy aside, there also is a physical component that presents a unique challenge to the technicians when they perform an ultrasound.
“We can inspect 98 percent of the area just fine,” said TSgt. Zach Williams, 349th MXS. “But for 100 percent coverage, someone needs to go inside of the box. Our whole shop could be fully qualified to do the inspection, but if nobody can physically get in there, we can’t call the job complete.”
The 60th MXS nondestructive inspections shop spends a lot of time ensuring technicians know how to perform an ultrasound inspection, he said.
“We have gotten so proficient at this inspection that we have a lot of engineers come to us to have a set of Travis eyes check their work before they go somewhere else,” Williams said. “It’s a real confidence booster.”