A Silent Killer: Corrosion team helps Air Force keep mission from rusting away

  • Published
  • By Amanda Creel
  • 78th ABW/PA
Recently a five-man team, with four members from Robins, deployed in an effort to help eliminate "a silent killer."

The killer is the corrosion of aircraft and ground support equipment.

Corrosion can cause equipment to work less efficiently or even fail with little or no warning, which is why the Air Force Corrosion Prevention and Control Office is always working to help the Air Force curb the threat of corrosion.

"If you don't pay attention to it (corrosion), it's going to get you," said Kevin Wilson, a senior maintenance analyst with the corrosion office.

"Our office does a lot for people. It tells them about new products and procedures to facilitate the fight against corrosion," said Senior Master Sgt. Scott Ward, Air Force corrosion manager. "We help them work smarter not harder."

The team agreed they can't do their job without people in the field who are using the equipment acting as their eyes and ears.

The mission of the office is to lead the Air Force in improving combat capability - greater operational reliability, safety and effectiveness - through corrosion control.

The five-man team made up of Air Force Research Laboratory technicians, Warner Robins Air Logistic Center technicians and a subcontractor, recently spent 20 days touring five bases throughout Southwest Asia to assess problems with support equipment corrosion.

The bases the team visited were Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar; Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates; Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait; Manus Air Base, Kyrgyzstan and Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan.

"We transited 10 countries and traveled over 17,000 miles during the deployment," Mr. Wilson said.

The purpose of the deployment was to evaluate how the Southwest Asia environment affects Aerospace Ground Equipment or support equipment with respect to corrosion. To achieve their objectives, the team visited the AGE maintenance facilities, AGE ready line, AGE wash facilities, fabrication flight and paint facilities and ammo trailer maintenance facilities.

The men agreed the main objective was to evaluate the support equipment, because the aircraft return to the U.S. every six months to get washed, while the support equipment goes over at the beginning of an effort and stays until the end, Sergeant Ward said.

He said their efforts are designed to prevent "mission degradation because of the corrosion and the high ops tempo there."

The team agreed seeing the corrosion due to the elements in Southwest Asia will result in developing new methods or products that could eliminate some of the threats of corrosion.

"Now we are looking back and trying to influence procurement of equipment that survives well in that Southwest Asia environment," Sergeant Ward said.

He said the team decided to make a trip to the bases as a fact finding mission because they had been unable to find any reliable accounts as to what procedures were in place to maintain the equipment at the bases in Southwest Asia.

Some of the types of equipment the team examined as part of their deployment included aircraft air conditioners and generators, maintenance stands or bomb lifts and ammo trailers.

The team acknowledges it can't do its job alone; it needs those in the field using the equipment to help them understand the issues and problems that affect their ability to complete their mission.

The team said a lot of its work during the deployment focused on operational and corrosion concerns of aircraft generators because it was one of the main areas people in the field said needed improvement.

"The generators are a high demand piece of equipment and can be very labor intensive to repair" said Mr. Wilson, a contractor with S & K Technologies, Inc.

Once the team visited the areas, they made suggestions as to what actions or materials were needed to properly prevent and control corrosion.

"We provided the tools to get the maintenance done," said Charles McKenna, senior maintenance analyst with the corrosion office. "We provided real time guidance such as national stock numbers and vendors in order to facilitate procurement of approved materials to get the job done."

Sergeant Ward added without the right tools, maintenance efforts are not going to accomplish anything.

The team provided action items such as the radiator and condenser coil washes, which help increase efficiency in the generators, Sergeant Ward said. They also put into action more frequent washes to these units.

The team was also able to facilitate the movement of equipment where they were able to replace older equipment with newer equipment. And before new equipment can be purchased, one must consider future corrosion issues for the equipment and devise a corrosion plan, Sergeant Ward said.

He said a lot of the equipment is due for an overhaul or refurbishment. However, the Air Force can't afford to, so the team must focus on maintenance.

"Without corrosion control, sooner or later we are going to lose equipment," said Sergeant Ward.

One of the ways the team can date equipment on the ground is by the paint color, said Mr. Wilson. The team spotted some equipment sporting yellow which hasn't been used to paint equipment since the 70s. Green was the color of choice for equipment after yellow was phased out and more recent equipment is painted gray.