Fleet Readiness Center Southeast engineers and chemists are bringing repairs that, in the past, would've forced planes off their operational schedule, right to the flight line.
The Navy's P-8A Poseidon, like any aircraft, experiences periodic lightning strikes that cause metal damage and degrade the anti-corrosion coating that protects the metal.
"After we have a lightning strike and you have to repair the metal where it hit, you lose the finish that is on it from the factory, anodize," said FRCSE structural engineer Josh McLernon.
"Usually, if we repair a part of the fuselage, for example, you can just reapply the paint.
"But with anodize, you have to do something like this, which is a more intricate process."
Most of the plane is covered with primer and paint. However, the location of this lightning strike was on the plane's static port, which is used to take airspeed, altitude and other measurements. The circular aluminum plate can't be covered with heavy protective coatings.
"They need a certain finish on that area, and anodize was the best thing to give them the finish and corrosion protection they were looking for," materials engineer Luzmarie Youngers said. "We know anodize works. We just needed the process to do it."
Restoring the anodize, normally requires parts to be taken off the aircraft and dipped in large vats of the solution – taking the aircraft out of service.
Attempts had been made in the past to apply anodize directly to the aircraft, but they proved tedious and inexact.
"The computer interface on this system automatically calculates the required plating parameters," said FRCSE process engineer Jack Benfer. "The machine tells the artisan when to stop, and the stopping point is generally a mathematical calculation.
"It kind of guarantees consistency from a quality assurance standpoint."