Innovation pays in more ways than one

  • Published
  • By Bonita Dobbs
  • 552nd Air Control Wing Public Affairs
Innovation has paid off, not once, but four times for one 552nd Air Control Wing airman.

Since his arrival at the 552nd ACW four years ago, Staff Sgt. Daniel McSwain has continually looked for ways to improve processes in his shop. He is an avionics test station and aircraft component specialist in the 552nd Component Maintenance Squadron's avionics intermediate section.

McSwain has submitted five suggestions for process improvements through the Air Force Innovative Development through Employee Awareness Program over the past four years, saving the Air Force money and earning himself more than $15,000 in awards.

Technicians in his section are responsible for repairing aircraft line replaceable units that are removed from aircraft on the flightline and brought to the designated backshop for troubleshooting and repair.

McSwain's first four suggestions involved improvements to the compass adapter compensator - one of eight components that are a part of the Attitude Heading and Reference System. AHRS is part of the aircraft navigation system.

The four CAC improvements had fine-tuned the component so well that when bench-testing it, technicians could not always detect the illumination of the autopilot decoupled lamp.

Realizing the high number of nonserviceable components, McSwain began working with his depot counterparts to find a better way to test the equipment.

During his research, he found the lamp (on components that were still serviceable) was illuminating too quickly for the AHRS to catch it.

Because the illumination was not seen, many components were being classed as nonserviceables.

The sergeant's most recent suggestion added a note to the technical order letting technicians know the autopilot decoupled lamp may not illuminate during testing, or that it may illuminate so fast they would not notice it.

This ensured every possible step was taken before the component was sent out as nonserviceable. He earned $10,000 for this idea.

Since this suggestion has been added, the Air Force has saved more than $120,000 and more than 220 hours in trouble-shooting and needless repairs.

When asked about the award money, McSwain said, "The first three awards went toward furthering my education, and this most recent award is going to savings.

"It's not really about the money, though," he said. "It's really about taking the initiative to try to improve and fix as much as we can, as opposed to just plugging the components into the testing system and declaring it as nonserviceable without taking extra steps to ensure that it is actually nonserviceable.

"It's about saving the Air Force money and making our jobs easier," he said. "The money is an added bonus."