MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. --
Silently, Airmen don masks, black gloves and long rubber aprons before entering a small room, shrouded in darkness. The only thing visible to these NDI technicians is a fluorescent green glow seeping into scratches of steel and nickel.
Short for non-destructive inspection, these 5th Maintenance Squadron technicians inspect external and internal damage to aircraft and other equipment to ensure combat readiness, and keep aircraft and crew members safe during missions.
“Our job is mission critical because we help keep planes in the air and crew members safe,” said Senior Airman Brianjonathan Loanzon, an NDI journeyman. “We make sure all parts are operational and are not going to break mid-flight.”
These technicians can spot even the smallest defects in aircraft and other equipment unseen to the naked eye using special tools and chemicals.
“If we see any indications of a defect, we wipe them away and use a magnetic particle spray to bring out the defect under a black light,” Loanzon said.
When NDI receives a part in need of inspection it goes through six different processes, such as x-ray, ultra sound and oil analysis.
All of these procedures are important because each part requires different inspections to get the best results, said Loanzon.
For example, Loanzon said he uses a bath of magnetic particles that are attracted to any defects on the aircraft part. Afterward, a magnetic pull breaks the crack and the defect becomes visible.
Once visible, Loanzon explained that a penetrant is applied, sits for a half an hour, and is then pre-rinsed before applying a hydrophilic remover. After it’s applied, the technicians dip the part into a developer, which brings the fluorescent penetrant out of the defects. Then, they let it dry for inspection.
Airmen 1st Class Charles Pridgen, NDI apprentice, said he has been a technician for seven months and feels his job is key to a more effective Air Force.
“I like my job because you get an in-depth look on how and why inspection methods work rather than just seeing it happen,” said Pridgen. “It takes the knowledge and skill of the inner workings to know what we do and why.”
By keeping equipment maintained the NDI Airmen also help save the Air Force money.
“We’re pretty cost effective because we can verify equipment damage and be able to say it needs repaired rather than throwing it out,” said Loanzon. “We do our job the best that we can. We find defects and prevent catastrophes and anyone from getting hurt.”