NDI's X-Ray vision keeps C-130s safe

  • Published
  • By By Staff Sgt. Trevor Saylor
  • 934th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
With the number of missions and flying hours the aircraft of the 934th Airlift Wing put in, wear and tear is a part of the job. Even machines as durable and battle-hardened as the C-130s employed by the Flying Vikings can show signs of age. That is where the Non-Destructive Inspection shop comes into play. It is comprised of one full-time Air Reserve Technician and three traditional reservists whom take care of a variety of different types of inspections. NDI handles the care of cracks, holes, rust, scrapes, and scratches on our C-130s that are often not visible to the naked eye.

NDI employs a variety of methods to find these hidden signs of wear and tear, including X-ray, eddy current, ultrasonic, magnetic particle, and liquid penetration. Each of these tools allows NDI specialists to see potential issues inside aircraft parts, ensuring a high degree of safety despite years of service. "The biggest reason we are here," said Staff Sgt. Ryan Bauman, Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge of NDI, "is for the problems you can't see."

All aircraft are required to go through comprehensive NDI inspections every 48 months, or more frequently depending on how many flight hours they log. Unlike the maintenance light in the average consumer car, when that light comes on in the flight deck of a C-130, hours of work could be required. "Something as simple as engine over-torque, which takes moments to occur," said Bauman, "can take as long as 13 hours of inspections on our end."

The technicians at NDI learn skills that are transferrable to jobs outside of the military. Everything, from aircraft and buildings, to oil rigs and pipelines, requires non-destructive inspections to ensure problems do not arise. The work is extremely dangerous at times too; for example, inspecting the underwater section of an oil rig in the ocean carries a significant amount of danger, and accounts for both the high pay and the short lifespan of the individuals performing the work. Fortunately, such dangers are not present at the 934th.

The work performed at NDI is crucial to keeping the 934th Airlift Wing operational and prepared for whatever comes up. Frankly, the work they do is indispensable and they are in high demand. Bauman suggested if he's "out sick for more than a single day, I get flooded with text messages and phone calls. The work piles up fast around here. It's good; we stay really busy." As the C-130s age, NDI will only become more critical to the wing's future success.