916th Airmen Equipped to Innovate

  • Published
  • By Jeramy Moore
  • 916th Air Refueling Wing

Master Sgt. Duane Edwards, Master Sgt. Ritchie Post and retired Master Sgt. Thomas Castro had a problem.

They needed to perform a maintenance inspection on a critical refueling component of a KC-135R Stratotanker and the tool they were required to use needed improvement.

“The old test stand was unstable, it was inefficient and we thought it could be faster,” said Edwards, the 916th Maintenance Squadron Hydraulics Shop flight chief, “We decided to come up with a better design based on the criterion in the technical order.”

And that is just what they did, roughly a year after the original concept for the new drogue test stand emerged they developed and created a safer and more efficient piece of equipment to inspect a critical aircraft component.

“Initially one of our biggest challenges was that the specifications were vague on the overall design of the test stand which made us reluctant to build a new one,” said Edwards.

The new device is professionally crafted, and blends in perfectly with the other manufacturer-made equipment in the hydraulics shop. It was also engineered to allow maintainers to apply different configurations to the tool for different stages of testing.

The new test stand has proven invaluable to the unit. It reduced overall inspection time by two hours per drogue and interface unit and eliminated a hazard present in the old testing process.

“This new stand safely holds the drogue during the test and inspection process and allows hydraulic shop personnel to perform the test and inspection in a timelier, more efficient manner,” said MSgt Ritchie Post, a machinist with the 916th Maintenance Squadron. “It made us much more efficient,” said Edwards. “It is safe, and allows us to get more work done faster.”

The KC-135R tanker’s primary mission is to perform in-flight refueling with a boom or drogue system. Edwards and the rest of the 916th MXS Hydraulics section are responsible for using the new stand to complete periodic inspections of all drogue and interface units. The introduction of this new tool into the aircraft maintenance system represents innovation at the wing level that will end up improving the efficiency and safety of the entire force.

"Chief of Staff of the Air Force General David Goldfein has put innovation and intrapreneurship at the top of his list of priorities. The 916th Air Refueling Wing is embracing General Goldfein’s vision and encouraging innovation at every level,” said 916th ARW Commander Col. Craig McPike. “What our maintenance team did is jump to the forefront of the Air Force’s innovation efforts with this incredible new drogue test stand. Their problem solving and out of the box thinking makes me proud to be their commander. ”