Engineers conduct aerial pipe survey at Yokota
March 30, 2009
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — For Yokota residents wondering about the low-flying helicopter traffic buzzing over their homes recently, officials said there’s no need for alarm.
It was just the civil engineers checking pipes.
Using an infrared camera to view underground, members of the 374th Civil Engineer Squadron surveyed the 97 linear miles of heat distribution pipes that lie beneath the base, checking for leaks, said Master Sgt. Joseph R. Hudson, the chief of the squadron’s mechanical section.
Over the course of six hour-long flights, the engineers recorded video and took still photos of the entire heating system beneath the ground.
"I was surprised how many lines showed up," Hudson said, pointing out that they located about 28 "hot spots" where a potential leak could be.
Besides being an effective way to find leaks, the technique also saves money and time, Hudson said.
In the past, he said, crews had to dig holes in the area they suspected a leak. With the pipes eight to 10 feet below the ground, it’s not a quick or cheap process to dig, Hudson said.
It’s also a guessing game.
Hudson said it usually would take about three holes to uncover the source of the leak. Including manpower and equipment, Hudson said, the cost of digging each hole is estimated at $15,000. The infrared camera alleviates the guesswork.
"This way we know exactly where to look," he said.
Hudson tried a similar method a few years ago, but an older-model camera didn’t do the job.
He put in a request to Pacific Air Forces and was able purchase the new $30,000 camera.
And it’s almost paid for itself in labor costs and man hours saved.
Hudson said once he presents his findings, the digging can begin. Albeit with fewer holes.