Mechanic snares $10,000 through IDEA program

  • Published
  • By Kevan Goff-Parker
  • 72nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs
William Durham was watching an infomercial about a year ago that featured a steamer blasting away caked-on pizza residue from an oven. He was amazed at how easily the steamer cleaned bathrooms, ovens and even barbecue grills. 

Part of Mr. Durham's job as a mechanic with the 76th Maintenance Wing is to remove carbonized fuel known as coking from the inside of the fuel distribution bodies of an F-15 Eagle's engines -- not an easy job because the PD-680 solvent used to clean them doesn't always work. When such cleaning fails, the $10,000 fuel distribution bodies are condemned. 

Then, it struck Mr. Durham. The combination of high-powered steam and detergent just might be the ticket to blasting away the Air Force's problems with coking. 

"As a bachelor, I sometimes have pizza residue in my oven, too," Mr. Durham said, with a laugh. "I went over to the store, spent about $90 on a steamer and I actually started cleaning with the thing. It worked great!"
He said he then told the 76th MXG engineers he wanted to experiment with hot steam to remove coking from fuel distribution bodies.
"About seven or eight months later, I got the request approved and tried it on condemned bodies and it worked," he said. "When the engineers looked inside the fuel distribution bodies, they were shiny and clear, like brand new. They were surprised." 

Of the 17 fuel distribution bodies that have been cleaned by Mr. Durham with detergent and shop steam, all 17 have passed inspection. The coking that was clogging the segments was blasted away. 

Originally a cowboy who spent most of his life breaking horses and delivering newborn calves on five acres in El Reno, Mr. Durham began working at Tinker in May 2001. He started in the paint shop and worked there about eight months before becoming a mechanic for the 76th MXW. 

"Being a cowboy, you sometimes have to improvise and sometimes the simple solutions are the best," Mr. Durham said. "Our new procedure has saved $170,000 already." 

Another aspect he is proud of is that fact that it minimizes the contact mechanics have with chemicals and saves time, money and improves mechanics' personal health safety. 

"I got something (implemented) that's safe for the environment," Mr. Durham said.
He said he had heard about the Innovative Development through Employee Awareness program, which Tinker promotes in an effort to capture ideas designed to increase efficiency, save resources and improve processes, products or equipment in the interest of national defense. 

Mr. Durham applied in July for the program and was recently awarded $10,000 for his creative thinking and money-saving process improvement.

(Courtesy of Air Force Materiel Command News Service)