Fighting B-52 Metal Fatigue

The Air Force Research Laboratory is working to combat the ageing process in the Air Force’s fleet of B-52 Stratofortress bombers, according to a release. Scientists in the AFRL’s Materials and Manufacturing Directorate are concerned about early signs of metal fatigue in the aircraft’s engine, tail, and wings. In response, they developed a new process of analysis that makes use of a scanning electron microscope that can magnify the airplane’s surfaces up to 50,000 times to aid in the detection of very small cracks that can be missed in the current maintenance process. The team uses the data they gather to study the way these cracks form in their early stages with a goal of improving the processing of the materials used to construct the aircraft. “The information from these characterizations can help reduce sustainment costs and improve fleet readiness, without compromising safety,” said Vikas Sinha, a materials scientist in the metals branch.