U.S. Navy and Marine Corps maintainers will soon have a new instrument to inspect all rotary, fixed-wing and unmanned aircraft.
Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) is sending 960 new borescopes to every Navy and Marine squadron, both ashore and at sea. The devices — hoselike probes that can wind through tight spaces in aircraft — allow maintainers to inspect hard-to-reach areas with a full-motion, color video camera with a light affixed to the end.
The Common Video Borescope Set, made by General Electric, replaces 27 other borescope models in use throughout the fleet. NAVAIR officials said this new device will serve as the standardized inspection system and offers superior video.
The result will be more thorough inspections.
“It simply allows our maintainers to inspect certain areas of the aircraft, mainly engines, without opening the engine up, or opening the aircraft up,” said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Francini Clemmons, assistant deputy program manager for nondestructive inspection equipment at NAVAIR’s Aviation Support Equipment Program Office.
The device looks like a plumber’s snake. The tip can bend like a finger, allowing 360 degrees of video coverage. It enters an aircraft through various ports and can move around obstacles to reach hidden corners or look for cracks and damage.
“It can actually lead that video probe all around that engine and see things you couldn’t before,” Clemmons said.
A maintainer uses a hand-held device to control the probe and watch a 3.7-inch color screen to evaluate an inspection site. Others can watch from a larger monitor, which can be attached.
If needed, the device, much like a cellphone, can take pictures and video, which can be sent to experts for their advice.
“A lot of times, we find ourselves in deployed situations, and you need a second opinion from an artisan back on the beach,” Clemmons said.
Previously, commands bought their own borescopes, resulting in more than two dozen models in use across the fleet.
The new system is expected to start shipping by October. Units cost around $15,000 apiece, weigh a little less than 4 pounds and do not require their own maintenance.
There are five versions of the new borescope. There are two 4mm probes, one with and one without a defect-measuring capability. There are three 6mm probes — one with a defect-measuring capability, one without, and a third with a mechanical finger that can pick up foreign objects inside the aircraft.
Besides having better video quality compared with many older borescopes, the new one can also snake into harder-to-reach nooks, Clemmons said. Many of the older ones were essentially cameras on the end of thin, rigid wands, he said.
Additionally, many of the older versions weighed as much as 30 pounds.
The new scope has been tested by maintainers at Naval Air Station Oceana, Va.; Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C.; and NAS Jacksonville, Fla. It received great reviews, Clemmons said, particularly for the high-resolution imagery.