Ogden Air Logistics Complex
6/11/2015 - HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah -- More
than 300 "at-risk" F-16 Fighting Falcons in the active duty, Air
National Guard and Air Force Reserve fleets are receiving inspections
and subsequent modifications at the Ogden Air Logistics Complex here, in
order to ensure structural integrity.
Using innovation and collaboration to better achieve the "Art of the
Possible," aircraft structural engineers in the F-16 System Program
Office developed a tool which was manufactured by technicians in the
309th Commodities Maintenance Group. The tool allows structural
technicians to blend repairs more accurately at precise depths.
The inspections address the Air Force Sustainment Center Way's tenets of
safety and quality, and also provide opportunities to save time and
cost, according to Mike Spaulding, 573rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron
Deputy Director. In the early stages of the structural work, technicians
were blending aluminum bulkheads by hand, using sandpaper. This process
proved tedious, was not repeatable and severely slowed the rate of
"The aircraft structural engineers from the F-16 SPO designed and 309
CMXG personnel manufactured a fixture that allows the structural
technician to blend faster, more accurately and more consistently at
precise depths," Spaulding said. "During the tooling design phase,
initial test fixtures were actually 'printed' in plastics and metals
using three-dimensional additive manufacturing, saving a great deal of
time and funds."
Mike Russell, a structures technician with the 573 AMXS who now uses the
blending tool, said, "It's actually a good system, very user friendly
and the Process Order is easy to understand. I see it working really
well into the future."
The use of this blending tool, coupled with other associated process
improvements, has prevented time- and labor-intensive bulkhead changes
and resulted in a 10-day reduction in the time an aircraft remains on
the depot repair line, thus increasing aircraft availability for the
"In cost terms, this amount of reduction easily reduces the cost of the
overall repairs by tens of thousands of dollars to our major commands,"
Spaulding said. "This team-centered experience in applying AFSC Way
principles reinforced the importance of empowering our workforce to
identify constraints and solve problems at the lowest level."
The 573 AMXS began performing the three major structural inspections --
nicknamed the "3 Amigos" -- in May 2013. Guided by three Time Compliance
Technical Orders, the inspections are designed to strengthen the
aircraft where the wings attach to the fuselage.
"Since the beginning of the inspection, Ogden ALC technicians
implemented the first inspection seamlessly, while the other two created
some production challenges," Spaulding said.
The first inspection replaces the wing bolts, while the second
inspection focuses on the condition of the bolt holes where the wing
attaches to the fuselage.
"If they found stress cracks, our technicians installed a doubler plate
to beef-up the existing structure," Spaulding said. "These doublers,
locally manufactured by the 309 CMXG, are permanently bonded then bolted
However, a Non-Destructive Inspection revealed air pockets and voids
behind the doublers, forcing the need to remove and replace them. The
doubler and installation process was redesigned by enterprise partners
including the Complex's NDI technicians, F-16 Systems Program Office
aircraft structural engineers and 309 AMXG process engineers. The new
process has eliminated 90 hours of costly rework.
The third inspection -- TCTO 2675 -- looks for cracking in four
bulkheads on each side of the F-16. The smaller cracks were milled out,
while larger cracks necessitated removing and replacing the bad
"For TCTO 2675, we worked with the Air Force Research Laboratory at
Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, and they hired UniWest Eddy Current
Equipment to design a custom NDI probe that has proven to be extremely
successful in helping us trust the reading and increase the inspection
intervals for the field," said Matt Fowers, F-16 Structures mechanical
engineer. "It allows us to assume they are detecting smaller cracks than
they originally were with the old off-the-shelf ribbon probe."
Fowers explained the custom milling tool can analyze the stress
experienced by using computer models, based on the profile that the mill
bit creates. Inspectors can then be confident with the re-inspection
intervals which are important for the health of the pre-block F-16
"The tool has been critical to providing the end goal of regaining
structural integrity of the aircraft so we can get these aircraft to the
end of their designed service life. It allows us to make the process
repeatable, predictable and reliable," Fowers said.
The added tools and partnership cooperation have saved about 10 days in
production time for each aircraft. A previous aircraft that went through
the old process took nearly a year to complete -- and it is estimated
that under the current system, the work would have only taken a couple
"By implementing an enterprise-wide approach to process development and
improvement, we improved safety, quality, speed and cost effectiveness,
and can now better monitor '3 Amigo' inspections and repairs throughout
the production process along with our SPO partners," Spaulding said.
"Looking to the future, the 573 AMXS has already begun to incorporate
lessons learned from this effort to other production processes, seeking
world-class, cost-effective readiness for our Air Force."