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CES Airman maps base 'hot spots'

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Matt Summers
  • 374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Six hours of helicopter flight time has the potential to save the Air Force hundreds of thousands of dollars in energy savings.

Master Sgt. Joseph Hudson, 374th Civil Engineer Squadron infrastructure superintendent, received a bird's-eye view of Yokota's more than 1,700 acres during six sorties on 459th Airlift Squadron UH-1N helicopters.  Sergeant Hudson, armed with a state-of-the-art infrared camera, was on a mission to detect "hot spots" or potential leaks in the base's more than 97 miles of heat distribution lines.

He was able to detect at least 28 "hot spots" on the east and west sides of the base and must still pour through the digital footage of the remainder of the base. But time spent at the computer pales in comparison to the hours it would take to "walk" the lines, which provide heat and hot water, with the infrared camera.

Because the lines are buried anywhere from 8 to 10 feet underground, in the past detecting leaks was a difficult task, according to Sergeant Hudson.

"We would get a major water loss at our (boiler) plants ... or see steam coming out of the ground," he said of a distribution system that is more than 20 years old.

From there, crews would have to dig down and locate the damage and determine the point where steam or water was escaping from the lines. Because of standing water and the proximity of supply and return lines, on average three holes had to be dug to find and repair the damage, at a cost of thousands of dollars in man-hours, according to Sergeant Hudson.

The infrared images allow crews to better pinpoint leaks and expedite repairs, saving not only on labor costs, but decreasing the amount of time services are interrupted.

While using infrared cameras to detect leaks is not new, marrying airlift capabilities and a top-of-the-line camera is something the rest of the Air Force civil engineer community is interested in, according to Sergeant Hudson.

"My career field manager wants to see my report so he can push other bases to get the camera," said Sergeant Hudson.

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