NDI Airmen detect to protect

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Melanie Bulow-Gonterman
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs

Ignore the headline, and let’s play a guessing game. What job do these Airmen have?

They are trained to use ultrasound and x-ray machines. Nope, not medical. They also work with fluorescent dyes, but they’re not sheet metal technicians, either. How about magnetic particle testing, eddy current testing and spectrometric oil analysis?

That’s right. They’re chemists! Well, chemistry-friendly maintainers who perform nondestructive inspections on all manner of aeronautical and ground equipment.

An NDI Airman’s job includes hyper-detailed inspections using those tools to ensure component integrity, which keeps aircraft mission ready.

Moody is home to 48 A-10C Thunderbolt II, eight HH-60W Jolly Green II and nine HC-130J Combat King II, totaling 65 vastly different aircraft that NDI Airmen are charged with maintaining.

NDI employs six different inspection methods: x-rays, magnetic particle, florescent dye penetrant, eddy current, ultrasound and lastly, joint oil analysis.

These six methods allow for inspection on a range of parts, from the entirety of an aircraft on the flight line to individual aircraft components, such as the GAU-8 weapons system, transmission support beams and nose landing gear.

Utilizing the specialized equipment allows the Airmen to see cracks imperceptible to the naked eye -- cracks as small as one-tenth of an inch.

“NDI’s mission is to detect flaws in aircraft and aircraft parts to determine serviceability,” said Senior Airman Dylan McElroy, a 23rd Maintenance Squadron NDI journeyman. “If we miss a crack, it can keep expanding, leading to catastrophic consequences.”

Parts can be brought into the shop to be analyzed and repaired. If a part cannot be brought to the shop, NDI dispatches to the flight line to conduct necessary inspections.

“We directly uphold sortie generation on all home station aircraft and pilot training” said Tech. Sgt. Cody Dickerson, a 23rd MXS NDI craftsman, “directly supporting combat search and rescue and close air support capabilities stateside and downrange.”

And while they are no stranger to working on helicopters, with the arrival of the HH-60W, they have had to relearn the updated airframe, relying on Army manuals and engineering to guide them through certain inspections.

“Every aspect of my job is exciting,” said McElroy. “My favorite part is inspecting a part for the first time. The HH-60W has provided just that.”

Regardless of the airframe and difference in components, NDI Airmen attention to detail provide pilots peace of mind.

“Our skillset is vital to keeping the pilots safe,” said Dickerson. “Without us, defects in airframes, parts and structures couldn’t be verified leading to mission failure.”