Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Real Time Aircraft Damage Assessment

Dan Wilke demonstrates how to work DENT--a new Damage Evaluation and Notification tool being developed with the U.S. Army to help Apaches get repaired faster. [Mike Goettings photo]

Apaches, damaged during their tour of duty, will be ready to get back to the battlefield sooner thanks to a new invention masterminded by Dan Wilke.

Wilke, a structural engineer at the Rotorcraft Systems facility in Mesa, Ariz., and his manager and co-inventor Dennis McCarthy, have a patent pending on the new Damage Evaluation and Notification Tool, known more commonly as DENT.

DENT is being developed under a contract with the U.S. Army as the solution to the difficult and long-standing problem of the accurate reporting and rapid assessment of Apache field damage, Wilke said.

“The U.S. Army wants to provide timely repair of damaged aircraft,” said Wilke, an associate technical fellow. “The problem has been long cycle time required for identification of type, size, and location of damage on the airframe. It can take a week or more for engineering to receive the damage definition necessary to begin analysis. Additionally, tracking and documentation of aircraft damage, analysis, and repairs is currently insufficient.

DENT incorporates a web-based reporting and tracking system for ease of use by the aircraft maintainer and the engineer. The invention consists of four key elements: a method for the consistent identification of location, size and type of damage; an automated transmittal of damage details to the appropriate personnel; rapid assessment of damage using automated analysis techniques; automated storage of all damage related field and engineering data in a central location.

“The combination of a consistent damage assessment process with the automated analysis tools will provide an estimated 85 percent reduction in cycle time for the disposition of field damage resulting in increased aircraft availability,” Wilke said.

The near real-time availability of damage and repair information will provide savings to both the customer and The Boeing Company throughout the life cycle of the aircraft,” he added. “The patent pending process is the foundation of a new product line for The Boeing Company in a previously untapped market niche.”

Wilke said the U.S. Army has just begun using the tool in Iraq, and will make a make a major DENT in its operation by the middle of 2007.

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