The RAAF’s 33SQN, capability steward Northrop Grumman Australia, and the Defence Aviation Safety Authority (DASA) has developed a non-destructive testing technology (NDITECH) regime to address corrosion issues on the air-to-air refuelling hoses used on the ADF’s Airbus KC-30A MRTT’s hose and drogue pods.
The 30m long refuelling hoses, of which each KC-30A has two, have a steel braid outer-sheath which has suffered from corrosion in recent years resulting in unserviceabilities. An ADF release says the NDITECH has been developed in conjunction with EddyFi, a Canadian based company that specialises in ECA testing, to develop a customised inspection probe which uses Eddy Current Array (ECA) electromagnetic testing.
After being successfully tested, EddyFi produced the probe and DASA developed an inspection procedure which scans the hose searching for and pin-pointing corroded and damaged areas, and can be integrated with existing NDITECH equipment.
“The ECA method removes the need for and risk of relying on visual inspections, and enables the NDITECHs to extend the lifespan of the refuelling hose – thus reducing cost of ownership for the platform.” DASA’s WOFF Greg Wilson said in the release. “It’s a data gathering tool that mitigates the failure rate of hoses, and provides direct feedback to NDITECHs, engineering personnel and suppliers. The introduction of this equipment has led to advancement in new applications of this technology across the Defence and civilian aviation community.”
CPL Peter Booth, a Reserve NDITECH 33SQN and DASA civilian contractor said the magnetic field and electric pulses identify areas that require further analysis by the NDITECHs. “Safety is the primary benefit of such technology, as well as enhanced quality control. We can locate corrosion early, be better informed with the correct data, and improve our management of it.”
The RAAF’s KC-30As have reportedly suffered from unsatisfactory availability of their Cobham 905E refuelling pods in recent years, with long turnaround times for maintenance of the pods which have often needed to be shipped back to Cobham in the UK for maintenance.