Professor (Engr.) Makanjuola Oki was educated at the prestigious Corrosion and Protection Centre, UMIST, now part of The University of Manchester, UK. His experience spans across academics and industries both in Nigeria and overseas. Prof Oki is a member of several professional bodies including, Institute of Corrosion, UK. He has published several papers in various international and local journals and he is the author of the book, Corrosion– Principles and Practice. His research interests cover Engineering hybrid Nano-Coatings for vehicle body parts and white products, Green Corrosion Inhibitors and Protection of Pipelines. Our correspondent had an exclusive interview with him recently.
Sir, can you shed some insights on the importance of taking the concept of corrosion into consideration in the aviation sector?
It is not convenient to have corrosion ravaging our infrastructures – money is being wasted. Instead of wasting and losing our structures to corrosion, we can spend a little to correct the anomalies. This would help to improve our GDP because this problem takes about 20% – 25% of it, hence the need to pay attention to corrosion and combat it.
What are some of the preventive measures that can be put in place especially by those working in this industry?
Like I mentioned during my lecture, good ‘housekeeping’ is of the essence. They must ensure that they clean their structures almost every day, as I also explained; we have pollutants in the air and these pollutants accelerate the rate of corrosion. If they are allowed to stay on the infrastructure for too long, it would accelerate the rate at which they decay. So, first and foremost they must ensure good housekeeping – even in our homes, our kitchen tools like pots must not be left dirty overnight. Also, when corrosion is detected, it should be removed immediately and this can be done by scraping, after which inhibitors should be applied, before painting. These are the simple measures that can be implemented, but in some industries like in the oil and gas industries, the coating should be used and at the same time, where feasible, cathodic protection. Cathodic protection and coating jointly is a very powerful corrosion combating instrument.
During your presentation, you touched on the different types of corrosions, in your opinion and your expertise in this field, which of the corrosions would you say those in the aviation industry should be wary of – which is the most dangerous?
All of them are dangerous because, in the aviation industry, all the forms of aqueous corrosion are present and high-temperature corrosion too. Aviation, especially aircraft, should be well-taken care of as far as corrosion is concerned.
In your experience, do you believe that the engineers in the industry are currently capable to handle the issues of corrosion and what trainings are available to ensure they are?
Yes, because all engineers must have passed through corrosion science and engineering courses – even Chemists. They may require some training and re-training on this aspect of engineering. Once they have gone through B.Sc. Engineering and studied corrosion, they do not need much to detect these things. Then the instrumentation used is like buying a television – it comes with a manual that tells one how to use and set it up. Technology has taken care of so many things.
How often do you suggest that inspection for corrosion in aviation infrastructure, especially aircraft, is done?
Every day, they should be looking at the airframe at least, because they can make use of their ordinary eyes, and once any sign of corrosion is found – remove it. It does not take much to use only the human eyes, once the problem is detected in one place, they can then think of how to use some other instrumentation to find out if the problem is in the other ‘hard-to-reach-areas’ because there is a possibility that if an issue is found in one part, the same can be happening in other parts. So, the first areas to be checked are the ones where defects can easily be spotted by just looking, once you see, check other areas.
In terms of policies and regulations – which ones are currently in place in this sector, to prevent infrastructural mishaps due to mismanagement and inadequate care?
That is why we have NCA; they are the technical people in control, especially for aircraft in terms of registration, airworthiness and so on. If they do their work judiciously, then we can be sure of safety.
What are your views on the Max 737 technical malfunctions and ultimate Ethiopian Airline crash, amongst others?
They are still investigating, we wait for the conclusion from that, but corrosion cannot be ruled out in most of these things. We did talk about a scenario caused by ‘fretting corrosion’, which resulted in a loss of contact, where the button that is supposed to allow fuel flow into the engine compartment was pushed, but the compartment remained locked up. This could have happened in the case of this aircraft model, that as a result of corrosion, something just did not work.