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Corrosion Control Mission Increases Aircraft Life

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

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The 558th Aircraft Maintenance Support Squadron’s Corrosion Control Team, part of the Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, has recently completed a corrosion control mission to extend an aircraft’s service life.

Officials from Robins noted that although aircrafts are often exposed to extreme flight conditions, if one should befall corrosion, the aircraft chances a decreased service life of both the aircraft itself and their parts, among other costly effects.

“The mission of corrosion control is to protect the aircraft,” said Todd Lavender, 558th AMXSS process engineer and squadron‘s corrosion control process manager. “It’s not for looks. It’s mainly for us to make sure there is not any corrosion associated with the aircraft so it can continue to fly longer.”

Aircrafts Fighting Corrosion

In a mission to fight corrosion, the Robins Air Force Base conducts a Program Depot Maintenance process at its Warner Robins Air Logistic Complex. The mission is carried out by the 558th Aircraft Maintenance Support Squadron.

U.S. Air Force, Joseph Mather

The 558th Aircraft Maintenance Support Squadron’s Corrosion Control Team, part of the Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, has recently completed a corrosion control mission to extend an aircraft’s service life.

According to Lavender, in the first steps to fighting corrosion, once an aircraft has arrived at Robins for a scheduled programmed depot maintenance they are processed and transferred to the control team for paint removal.

“We masked the aircraft to begin the depaint process,” he said. “Once that is completed, we apply a chemical mixture of benzyl-alcohol and peroxide onto the aircraft that takes the paint off of the aircraft.”

Lavender further explained that this step is important in the PDM process so that crews can visually see all the areas that have the potential to corrode.

“There are specific areas on the aircraft that are more prone to corrosion than others. Depainting the aircraft uncovers and exposes the surface so they can make repairs as needed to the aircraft.”

Once an aircraft undergoes paint removal and maintenance, it is then returned to corrosion control to be painted. Overall, the paint gate can take 7-12 days depending on the size of the aircraft. During this time, the coating process is reported to take approximately four hours, while the remaining days are reserved for surface preparation for masking and sealing the aircraft.

Typically, after critical areas of an aircraft are masked with a non-chrome containing surface pretreatment over the surface and that helps the primer stick to the aircraft, crews totaling about 35 people apply a primer and topcoat. The primer is reported to contain hexavalent chromium that protects the aircraft from future corrosion.

In reporting on one of Robins’ latest aircraft projects, Lavender touched on a C-130 aircraft: “A C-5 aircraft is about 36,000 square-feet; and volume wise, we have about 180 gallons of primer on the aircraft. Then, we use about 220 gallons of topcoat. The corrosion control paint portion takes about 3,000-man hours for each aircraft.”

However, in wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Lavender reported that often times manpower was reduced due to quarantine and isolation.

“Many times we had to combine painters from different areas within the support squadron,” said Lavender. “When you are accustomed to painting a specific airframe, it is sometimes difficult to quickly learn the techniques required to paint another airframe.”

Another solution the Air Force employed during this time was the use of virtual reality technology so that crews could be better cross trained. The Department of Defense is currently evaluating many different methods to effectively train the government’s work force, specifically in coatings applications.

“The future of virtual reality aircraft paint training will provide focused development of basic skills for painting an aircraft,” said Lavender. “The painter can transition into an augmented reality environment where they will have access to all of the pertinent information - air pressure, fluid pressure, pump pressure, fluid flow, mil thickness, etc. - they require to provide a quality paint finish.”

Lavender continued that in successfully training painters within a VR atmosphere to gain necessary skills on a variety of aircrafts, WR-ALC customers would find the same quality finish they expect to see.

“The first thing the customer sees is the paint job when the aircraft touches down at its home station,” he said. “So making sure you have a quality product leaving here is key to the customer accepting the whole aircraft. They do not see the work on the overhaul but they see the paint job, and if they see a bad paint job they assume the work may have been sub-par as well.”

Crews at Robins plan to roll out VR aircraft paint training by mid-summer.

“It is a good feeling to know that we produced a quality product that is helping to get boots on the ground,” he said. “The corrosion control mission extends the lifecycle of our aged aircraft that fly missions worldwide in support of the Air Force and the warfighter.”

   

Tagged categories: aircraft; Corrosion; Corrosion engineering; Corrosion protection; Government; Maintenance coating work; Maintenance programs; NA; North America; Primers; Program/Project Management; Quality Control; Surface Preparation; Topcoats

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