AFRL Discovering What’s “Bugging” Military Aircraft

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September 26, 2016 | Originally published by Date Line: September 26 on

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFNS) — As any aircraft maintainer can attest, corrosion is a major factor affecting the overall health of military aircraft. Anything from changing temperatures to environmental factors can precipitate corrosion. One major contributor, however, is often overlooked — microbes.

The Air Force Research Laboratory’s biological materials and processing research team is shining a new light on microbiologically influenced corrosion research and how it affects aircraft structures and fuel systems. These researchers look into the causes, effects and prevention of corrosion caused by living organisms.

Over time, mold, mildew, fungi, bacteria and other organic contaminants can build up on aircraft structures as a result of a number of factors including moisture, humidity and human contact. Contaminants not only pose potential health hazards to maintenance crews, but also some can produce acids and enzymes that slowly corrode aircraft surfaces.

“Microorganisms can eat away at surface materials, and some of the worst areas affected are tight, hard-to-reach areas that maintainers have difficulty disinfecting,” said Dr. Wendy Goodson, the AFRL biological materials team lead.