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Technicians coengineer cost-saver with a spin

MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFNS) -- As two aircraft metals technicians pondered the awkward and lengthy four-part paint process of the KC-135 Stratotanker's main landing wheel they said they had a eureka moment.

Staff Sergeants Alex Aguayo and Michael Rogers, aircraft metals technicians with the 6th Maintenance Squadron, co-engineered a way to centrifugally mount a KC-135's nose and main landing wheel on a rotating base to allow the entire part to be painted in a single step.

"As we watched how a wheel was painted during a routine corrosion preventative process, we both knew that there had to be a better way," Aguayo said. "Only being able to paint one side at a time, with 13 hours of cure in-between, is just not effective."

Knowing that the wheel would need a 360-degree plane of rotation for even and efficient paint application, the two started with the construction of a heavy-duty, ball-bearing mounted turntable.

Once the turntable prototype met their strength and operational standards, they moved on to the second most important part -- the wheel mounting stand.

"We observed the paint process (of the wheel) and knew then, that the part needed to be up and off the ground," Aguayo said. "A solid, yet functional stand, needed to be implemented."

The two crafted an angular, tri-point mounting bracket to hold the wheel and welded a base that was sturdy enough so that they could double the proficiency by adding a second wheel workstation, or WWS.

After hours of planning and multiple prototypes, the new WWS was finally complete.

"This is the kind of thing we do all the time," Aguayo said and chuckled. "We think up designs that can simplify a process and we build them. I'm just glad that we could do our part to save the Air Force money, by reducing man-hours."

When the first WWS rolled off the assembly line and over to the paint crew, it was received with arms wide open.

"The stand is amazing, it works great," Staff Sgt. Braden Foley, a aircraft structural technician with the 6th MXS. "Before the WWS we were stuck painting one side at a time, now we paint both sides and have cut out 13 hours of cure time. The process has been cut in half."

Because of the success that the WWS is having at MacDill AFB, other KC-135 bases have taken a vested interest in Aguayo and Rogers design. It is quite possible, officials said, that the WWS could become a newly-benchmarked painting aid Air Force-wide.
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