Eddy Current Inspection Shop saves lives, money

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. (AFMCNS) -- Saving lives and money: That's what employees in the Eddy Current Inspection Shop at the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center are all about.

And it's their life management approach to reliability-centered maintenance that has made them the industry leader in extending the life of rotating jet engine components by discovering flaws thousands of times smaller than conventional inspection methods are able to uncover.

The OC-ALC is the world leader for using magnetic fields and electric, or eddy, currents, to determine flaws in rotating jet engine components, which is how the shop acquired its name.

"Basically, what we do is two things," explained Eric Taylor, non-destructive inspection process engineer with the Eddy Current Inspection Shop. "We ensure the safety of jet engines during flight by guaranteeing there are no cracks in designated engine parts that would result in a critical failure in the field.

"We also save the Air Force money by extending the life of those parts beyond their original life cycle."

The shop personnel can detect flaws up to five one-thousandths of an inch, compared with the previous method that was only reliable to 35 one-hundredths of an inch.

"We continuously drive the commercial and military technological envelope, impacting the future of jet engine support and inspection development," Mr. Taylor said.

Since its inception in the late 1980s, the Eddy Current Inspection Shop has saved the Air Force an estimated $4.7 million a year through cost avoidance by extending the life of rotating jet engine components by at least one life cycle, or 4,000 hours.

However, Mr. Taylor said, his folks are currently working with researchers in the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, to determine new methods that might help extend the life cycle of those parts beyond the 8,000-hour range.

"We've been working with aircraft manufacturers for the past five years to make that happen," he said.

What Mr. Taylor and the other 31 employees of the Eddy Current Inspection Shop are most proud of, though, is that since the inspection program was introduced there have been no catastrophic engine failures due to cracks in rotating components in the field.

The Eddy Current Inspection Shop is currently capable of drastically reducing time-driven inspections on all fracture critical components of Air Force F series engines including the F100, F101, F108, F110, F118 and F119.

Mr. Taylor said plans call for conducting inspections on the F135 and F136 engines. Plans also entail developing new technology under the Engine Rotor Life Extension program.