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16 March 2006 Advanced imaging of hidden damage under aircraft coatings
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The external coating systems of nearly all military aircraft are stripped to bare metal during programmed depot maintenance cycles. This paint stripping process has become cost prohibitive in recent years, and is expected to continue to be a major and escalating problem for the sustainment of an aging Air Force fleet. Although a number of competing factors come into play, the key reason behind current paint stripping practices is centered on requirements for visual inspection of the aircraft structure to determine if corrosion and/or fatigue damage is present. In recent years, a number of advancements have been made in the area of nondestructive evaluation (NDE) that provide new inspection capabilities for aircraft skins without the requirement for protective coating removal. In this effort, several advanced imaging methods are evaluated for hidden damage detection and quantification through typical aircraft coating systems. A number of measurement examples are provided for engineered and realistic aircraft reference standards with variations in coating type, coating thickness, hidden damage type, and component complexity being considered. A comparison of measurement sensitivity, resolution, area coverage, ease-of-use, quantitative assessment, data processing requirements, and inspection speed are also made. It is anticipated that the use of one or more of these advanced NDE methods for thru-paint inspections will provide an enabling capability for long-life coating systems and condition based maintenance practices resulting in significant reductions in hazardous waste generation, dramatic cost savings, and enhanced readiness levels for a wide variety of Air Force systems.
© (2006) COPYRIGHT Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE). Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.
Adam Cooney and James L. Blackshire "Advanced imaging of hidden damage under aircraft coatings", Proc. SPIE 6179, Advanced Sensor Technologies for Nondestructive Evaluation and Structural Health Monitoring II, 617902 (16 March 2006);

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