MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- Have you ever wondered a no-fail way to make your boss happy? It's easy -- get your aircraft in the air, quicker, and save money while doing it.
Two Airmen from the 35th Maintenance Squadron did just that by innovating a process to overcome old paint and unreliable tools.
When paint on the aircraft reaches maximum service life, the jets are unable to fly. Paint that is too old can revert to its original liquid form and can potentially get sucked into the aircraft's intake. This could mean catastrophic failure for the aircraft.
Therefore, the paint must be scraped off annually to prevent engine damage.
Around 50 to 75 scrapers were used every time the 35th MXS chiseled or scraped a single jet.
"A big issue we've had is the plastic chisels we previously used constantly broke, and we couldn't keep enough in stock" said Airman Ryan Babcock, a 35th MXS aircraft structural maintenance apprentice. "Recently, we came up with a new design, which has a metal base opposed to a plastic one."
While Korean Airlines visited Misawa for three months to complete heavy maintenance on the F-16 as part of a contract, Staff Sgt. Adam Labenne, the 35th MXS NCO in charge of corrosion control, noticed the aircrew using the same paint scraper every time they scraped paint off their jets, as opposed to the 35th MXS who ran through numerous scrapers daily.
Labenne and Staff Sgt. Jordan Jones, a 35th MXS aircraft structural maintenance craftsman, shared their idea to create a new paint scraper with their leadership. Lebenne then enlisted the help of metals technology to make their idea come to fruition, saving the U.S. Air Force and 35th Fighter Wing $54,000 yearly.
The squadron can make a whole sheet of scraper parts for about 100 dollars, which lasts 10 times longer and can now be handmade in-house instead of ordering new ones. The innovation removes the need to constantly replace and order new scrapers.
In addition, metal-based scrapers allow the 35th MXS to remove paint from the intake and other areas of the aircraft quicker and cheaper.
"These scrapers are better used for sanding," said Labenne. "When we're not removing all the paint from the intake, sanding actually speeds up the decay rate of paint, allowing more defects to be exposed for the 35th MXS to address more quickly."
For members of the 35th MXS, sanding time is now 10 to 15 times quicker than before.
"I'm grateful my leadership afforded me this opportunity to show my love for innovation," said Labenne. "This saves the U.S. Air Force time and money by allowing Airmen the ability to develop efficient skills in a timely manner without having to worry about constant replacements."