Mechanic pulls in cash with IDEA

  • Published
  • By Beth Young
  • 75th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
A pneudraulics systems mechanic here earned $6,200 from the Innovative Development through Employee Awareness program for developing a tool that keeps parts from being damaged during maintenance.

Brett Harris earned his award for developing a tool to help with taking F-15 Eagle pitch trim controllers apart so they can be cleaned and refurbished. IDEA program officials here estimated the tangible savings at $41,317.

Mr. Harris came up with the idea after spending two years watching parts being broken on the controller as it was being repaired. He said the unit controls the aircraft's pitch when flying and keeps the nose correctly aligned when the pilot releases ordnance.

When the controllers come to the pneudraulics center, they are disassembled so they can be cleaned and refurbished, he said. The problem was with the way the hydraulic lock assembly piston was being removed.

To remove the metal cylinder from the rest of the unit, maintainers had to pry it off, Mr. Harris said. The force snapped the thin metal that connects the cylinder to the rest of main unit, and would sometimes dent the entire unit.

"It was only during disassembly that it was damaged," Mr. Harris said. "We replaced 30 of these in one year because of damage."

Center workers refurbish 160 controllers a year. Almost 20 percent were damaged when they were supposed to be getting repaired, Mr. Harris said. Each part cost $2,300.

Mr. Harris' "puller" tool requires maintainers to place it inside the piston cylinder, where it is slightly expanded, to create contact pressure instead of prying at the bottom of the cylinder where it is attached. The part can then be disassembled without damaging it.

"These are dynamic surfaces, meaning they are moving parts," Mr. Harris said. "We needed to manufacture something that would not compromise the integrity of the smooth inside finish.

"The puller is made of brass, which is a softer metal than the steel of the cylinder,” he said. “This protects the surface finish of the lock piston."

After IDEA officials accepted Mr. Harris's design for the puller, center machine shop experts manufactured it, and everyone in the shop is now using it. Not one piston has been damaged during removal since they started using the new tool, Mr. Harris said.

"There really wasn't an effective way of pulling the part off before his idea," said Jason McKaughan, one of Mr. Harris's co-workers. "This tool has definitely helped to keep damage from happening to the part. I would say that it saves those parts."

"It's always good to be able to do your job quicker and easier with the right tool," Mr. Harris said. "I'm happy that it worked out this way. I hope there will be more ideas suggested and accepted." (Courtesy of Air Force Materiel Command News Service)