Inspectors keep an eye on Raptor production

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Dan Neely
  • 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Master Sgt. Richard Bailey and Staff Sgt. Mike Bedtelyon are administratively assigned to Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., but they are playing key roles in another state to ensure the base's future F-22 Raptors are delivered with the right stuff.

Bailey and Bedtelyon, both from the 325th Operations Support Squadron, are inspectors on the Air Combat Command F-22 Raptor Acceptance Team located at the Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company's assembly facility here.

Bailey, an F-15 Eagle crew chief and quality assurance inspector, and Bedtelyon, an avionics technician, are now two of eight specialists on the acceptance team, which also includes experts in electrical systems, weapons, egress and propulsion.

"We have a pretty wide breadth of experience up here," Bailey said.

He said the Air Force has fundamentally changed the way it conducts acceptance inspections. Typically, when a squadron received a jet, it entailed tearing the aircraft apart, verifying serial numbers, checking inside the panels and making sure nothing was wrong with the aircraft.

That process was very costly and labor intensive, Bailey said. As a result, the Air Force decided to conduct the acceptance inspection as the aircraft is being assembled.

"Now we (acceptance team) get the opportunity to go out every day and look at the airplane in certain areas as it's being put together," he said. "We identify to Lockheed (experts) any shortcomings that we see or things we think need attention, and they work the problem.

"In theory, when Tyndall gets a jet, the concept is 'gas-and-go,'" Bailey said. "A gas truck will come out and fill it up, some other minimal things will be done to it, you'll basically turn the jet (prepare it for launch), put a pilot in it and it's ready to fly."

Bailey said that acceptance inspections normally take about 10 days to complete.

"It's not a cake job, though," he said. "What we're doing up here on this airplane is far more in-depth than a normal acceptance inspection. We're getting to see every aspect of the airplane as it's getting assembled going down the line."

The ACC team created an innovative approach to conducting the F-22 inspections.

"We had to come up with everything from scratch," Bailey said. "We made up a list and broke up the aircraft into 50 different areas. Using that list, we go through about two areas a day as the aircraft jumps stations. Then we go back and reinspect those areas again and again. It's an ongoing thing. We're never really finished until the final panel is put on for the last time and painted up."

Bailey said the most interesting aspects of the acceptance team job involve seeing how the Raptors are built, and working closely with the Lockheed Martin assembly team.

"I've never dealt at all with the civilian side of the house, and that experience is very interesting, as well as seeing the way they have the assembly line set up," he said. "The most satisfying thing is when we can catch something...that otherwise wouldn't have been caught and would have caused all the airplanes to be changed. If we catch it here on the floor, we save the Air Force a whole bunch of money and time, because things are getting corrected here before it ever gets out to the line." (Courtesy of Air Education and Training Command News Service)