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AFRL experts supporting C-5A evaluation program

by Timothy Anderl
Air Force Research Laboratory

9/21/2004 - WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFPN) -- Scientists and engineers here are literally putting parts of a C-5 Galaxy under a microscope to help Air Mobility Command officials determine the cargo giant's current condition and future needs.

Materials integrity experts from the Air Force Research Laboratory's materials and manufacturing directorate are supporting a joint effort among the C-5 systems program office, the Warner Robins Air Logistics Center and Air Mobility Command to tear down and analyze C-5A components. Warner Robins ALC is at Robins Air Force Base, Ga., and AMC headquarters is at Scott AFB, Ill.

This is the first study of this kind done on the C-5A, the Air Force's largest cargo aircraft and among the oldest in its inventory, said Capt. Chris Lietch of the materials integrity branch.

Gen. John W. Handy, AMC commander, requested the study to determine whether the aircraft's structure and components are living up to predictions made in its original design, and to evaluate the C-5A's long-term maintenance requirements.

Captain Leitch said the evaluation program's purpose is three-fold. First, experts analyzing integral aircraft components will enable AMC officials to identify the magnitude of future fleet component repairs and replacements.

The teardown may also reveal unexpected structural integrity concerns, he said.

And third, the analysis results will be used to validate the aircraft structural integrity program process and the fleet structural maintenance plan.

Directorate experts have already provided guidance while developing the project's analysis requirements, the captain said. They have also verified and validated the capabilities of several subcontractors participating in the project and will evaluate several of the C-5A's components to determine their structural integrity.

"The materials integrity branch has a legacy of providing quick response capability in a variety of very important material areas," Captain Lietch said.

"Because we have studied aircraft components in various stages of their service life, we are confident that we'll be able to provide the data . to make decisions about the capabilities of the aircraft in its current state and to identify ways to make improvements and eliminate future concerns with the C-5," he said.

Earlier this year, materials integrity branch members led the team that developed detailed requirements for the program. The document was delivered to multiple subcontractors who are evaluating the aircraft components, Captain Lietch said. This will make sure test procedures and data reporting are standardized during the program.

"We are also in the process of providing independent audits of several subcontractors who were identified to participate in this project," Captain Lietch said. "These audits will verify the organizations' ability to follow and report results that Warner Robbins, AMC and the C-5 SPO can use."

All of the data collected will be entered into an analysis program, which will allow experts to make accurate predictions for the aircraft and its components.

In addition, branch members have identified several components for in-house evaluation, including the inboard engine pylon attachment fitting, the aft pressure bulkhead and the contour box beam fitting. Each of these components was identified as a high-priority component from their respective body sections. Testing will determine fatigue and stress corrosion cracking issues with the components.

"We have also agreed to evaluate any 'surprise' components identified by (Warner Robins ALC experts) later on in the program as requiring a closer look despite their not being included on the original component list," Captain Lietch said.

All of the major components will be cut by 653rd Combat Logistics Support Squadron people at Warner Robbins ALC and shipped to participants by the end of the year. The program is expected to be complete by 2006, officials said. (Courtesy of Air Force Materiel Command News Service)

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