Air force C-130 rainbow fitting diagnostic technology development

Jeffrey Banks, Clark Moose, Steve Conlon, Karl Reichard, Gary Steffes

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

2 Scopus citations


The C-130 Hercules has been a workhorse for the U.S. Air Force for decades and is projected to continue to accrue flight hours for years to come as a highly capable platform utilized for numerous mission profiles. In the past few years, many C-130 aircraft have developed fatigue cracks in the center wing box rainbow fittings. These cracks can be a significant flight safety risk, when the damage is extensive. In order to detect the existence of cracks in the rainbow fittings so that they can be repaired, implementation of labor intensive eddy current nondestructive inspection technology has been used to assess the condition of each aircraft on a scheduled basis. The Air Force is interested in the development and application of alternative fault detection techniques that are less time demanding to implement by the maintainers, while providing a high damage detection probability. Additionally, the future capability to embed effective rainbow fitting fault detection capability into the aircraft as an integrated systems health management (ISHM) solution is also desired. ARL Penn State has evaluated acoustic emission (AE) technology for detection, fault localization and fault severity indication of cracks in the rainbow fittings of C-130 aircraft. The AE technology involves monitoring for the emission of high frequency vibration (> 100,000 Hz) as an existing structural defect (crack) is stressed from the static loading of the wing. Testing has been conducted on undamaged rainbow fittings at the component level in the laboratory and on a damaged rainbow fitting at the platform level on aircraft. The preliminary analysis results indicate that this technology could provide an effective indication for crack detection, and localization, that is less time and labor intensive to implement than other conventional technologies. The purpose of this paper is to provide the project background information, describe the capability of the Eddy Current and AE technologies and show the analysis results from AE testing. The presentation will also discuss how the technology could be implemented as an onboard ISHM solution for aging C-130 aircraft.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication2008 IEEE Aerospace Conference, AC
StatePublished - 2008
Event2008 IEEE Aerospace Conference, AC - Big Sky, MT, United States
Duration: Mar 1 2008Mar 8 2008

Publication series

NameIEEE Aerospace Conference Proceedings
ISSN (Print)1095-323X


Other2008 IEEE Aerospace Conference, AC
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityBig Sky, MT

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Space and Planetary Science


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