HomeNewsArticle Display

Stealth pilots, high school students create innovative part for $2.2 billion aircraft

A four-switch panel called the airframe mounted accessory drive, or AMAD

A four-switch panel called the airframe mounted accessory drive, or AMAD, sits on the left side of the B-2 Spirit’s two-person cockpit. The AMAD switches control the connection of the engines to the hydraulic and generator power of the aircraft. Several stealth bomber pilots at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., recently collaborated with the local high school robotics team to design and 3-D print the protective covers for the panels. Now, all 20 B-2s at Whiteman use the panel covers during flight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kayla White)

Students on the Knob Noster High School robotics team, outside of Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., designed a protective panel that covers four switches in the cockpit of the $2.2 billion B-2 Spirit stealth bomber.

Students on the Knob Noster High School robotics team, outside of Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., designed a protective panel that covers four switches in the cockpit of the $2.2 billion B-2 Spirit stealth bomber. Each panel costs $1.25 to produce. A four-switch panel called the airframe mounted accessory drive, or AMAD, sits on the left side of the B-2’s two-person cockpit. The AMAD switches control the connection of the engines to the hydraulic and generator power of the aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kayla White)

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. (AFNS) -- “We’ve been innovating since the Wright Brothers, since we first took flight,” said Brig. Gen. John J. Nichols, B-2 Spirit pilot and commander of the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base. “We are a service of innovation.”

Across the Air Force, changes to equipment, policies and procedures have been made to save money, to save time and to save lives. From the highest levels, Airmen across the service are being encouraged to innovate. It’s this innovation that will deliver lethality to outpace adversaries, says Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein, and maintain the U.S. position as the world’s strongest, most powerful military.

One such innovation came in response to a recognized potential issue within the B-2 – the world’s most strategic aircraft and the heart of the stealth mission at Whiteman AFB.

A four-switch panel called the airframe mounted accessory drive, or AMAD, sits on the left side of the B-2’s two-person cockpit. The AMAD switches control the connection of the engines to the hydraulic and generator power of the aircraft.

“We wanted to make sure that these switches were protected,” said Nichols. “I had a feeling if we tapped our community partners, they would work hand-in-hand with our Airmen.”

An innovative partnership
Nichols said he believes innovation can come from anywhere, including the younger generation.

So, he called Jerrod Wheeler, Knob Noster School District superintendent, the lead school administrator in the small town just outside of Whiteman AFB, to see if the high school robotics team could help the base with a solution.

Nichols’ initial simple suggestion resembled a rectangular, rounded butter-dish looking cover that would be secured over the switches to protect them. The cover would have to be a perfect, customized fit that would not come loose during flight, while also allowing the pilots to see the switches beneath it.

Wheeler took the challenge to Christopher J. Adams ,Knob Noster High School engineering and technology education teacher, and his Stealth Panther Robotics students, who readily accepted.

“Part of what we do in engineering class is to apply the design process to a problem,” said Adams, describing how the students drafted a variety of prototype designs and printed them on the school’s 3-D printer.

Throughout the process, the students were guided by several seasoned B-2 pilots.

“It was impressive to see the ingenuity and the initiative in each of these students,” said Maj. Joe Manglitz, a B-2 evaluator pilot. “They’re young high school students, but they’re incredibly smart. They’re the type of people we need in the future of our country and certainly in the future of our Air Force.”

The students met with Nichols throughout the process and also visited the B-2 simulator to test their prototype.

“I thought it was great when they completely rose to the level of the folks they were with,” said Adams. “I was super proud of them absolutely grasping the gravity of the situation and the problem, the seriousness, and then handling themselves like professionals far beyond their years.”

With the feedback and perspective they gained through these interactions, the students went back to the digital drawing board.

‘A dollar twenty-five’
“My favorite part of this process was being able to talk geek with all the people involved,” said Gabriel Gish, a KNHS junior and military child, who serves as the robotics team leader for the design and prototype section of the Stealth Panthers.

He discussed some of the challenges the team faced through the design and production process, ensuring the necessary level of heat produced by the 3-D printer for stable panel covers. They also needed to find a way to affix the covers to the AMAD panel without permanently altering it.

“We realized the dual-lock Velcro we use on our robots would work really well,” said Gish.

From the initial design to the final printed cover, there were eight structurally different designs. With feedback from the pilots, the robotics team made small modifications to ensure the cover could be easily gripped and removed, as well as withstand the pressurization and heat requirements of flight. Furthermore, the switches needed to be visible to the pilots at all times.

After extensive testing and levels of approval – Nichols was the first pilot to fly a B-2 with the cover in place – the AMAD panel cover is now being used inside all 20 of the Air Force’s B-2 stealth aircraft.

“It feels really good to be able to say that I helped keep B-2 pilots safe,” said Gish.

Nichols sang the praises of the students.

“This team of high school, STEM-related, super-smart students printed this,” said Nichols, punctuating his sentence in the air using the AMAD panel cover in his hand. “Seventy-two hours from the initial design concept to the final product at the grand total cost of a dollar twenty-five a copy.”

Nichols highlighted the collaborative effort between the Airmen and the student robotics team.

“This is an unbelievable story of partnering and innovation, which has brought a known level of risk down in a short period of time,” said Nichols. “I’m so proud of this team. I am so proud of this partnership with the local community and these kids over at Knob Noster High School. They just did an amazing job.”

Engage

Twitter
RT @GenCQBrownJr: Gen. “Seve” Wilson is a relentless advocate of challenging the status quo, & pushes the boundaries of what is possible to…
Twitter
RT @GenCQBrownJr: Couldn't be more pleased w/ the confirmation of Lt. Gen. Allvin as the new @USAirForce #VCSAF. When it comes to leading a…
Twitter
RT @USAF_ACC: SECAF makes a stop with the @366FW & @TheRSAF exploring MHAFB’s unique capabilities, and partnerships. Check it out: https:…
Twitter
RT @GenCQBrownJr: Another opportunity to work with important partners today - & an honor to participate in the first virtual Conference of…
Twitter
The Air Force is looking into training w/high-tech glasses. They enhance sensory skills by removing milliseconds of… https://t.co/CvpmoqW5V6
Twitter
An F-15C Eagle from the 67th Fighter Squadron takes off for a training mission @KadenaAirBase. Kadena AB pilots tra… https://t.co/xW3lyKowMy
Twitter
Ever seen a fortress fly? A B-52H Stratofortress takes off from Barksdale Air Force Base during an exercise. The… https://t.co/PGxoVwGg9m
Twitter
As part of the ongoing effort to build a more inclusive Air and Space Force, additional revisions were approved Sep… https://t.co/flti0r2Twm
Twitter
RT @cmsaf_official: Team — tough decision, but the right decision. As Lt Gen Kelly said, this was needed to ensure ALL Airmen continue t…
Twitter
Department of the Air Force officials announced a $3,750 military tuition assistance cap per fiscal year that will… https://t.co/SkYn9pm1JA
Twitter
RT @PACAF: Here is your #PACAF photo of the week! A B-1B Lancer assigned to the 28th Bomb Wing, Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., takes off…
Twitter
Exercise your right to vote from anywhere in the world. For more information, click the 🔗 https://t.co/RM47o18XhD https://t.co/Li7cgN1kF9
Twitter
Aircrews from the 437th Airlift Wing @TeamCharleston worked alongside @USArmy's 82nd Airborne Division during Batta… https://t.co/GozzCKbwFN
Twitter
RT @AirMobilityCmd: #Airmen from the 436th APS recently loaded an Egyptian air force #130H at #DoverAFB as part of a foreign military sales…
Twitter
RT @GenCQBrownJr: Success will require collaboration within and throughout our joint partnerships to ensure credibility and lethality of ou…
Twitter
These exercises ensure the 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale AFB is able to provide the nation with winning combat power.… https://t.co/Q622IA7vsR
Twitter
RT @HQUSAFEAFAF: #Teamwork + #Partners = Success! U.S. & German Air Force #JTACs teamed up to call in close air support during exercise #a
Twitter
Night flying exercises provide @48FighterWing aircrew & support personnel the experience needed to maintain a ready… https://t.co/5N20mfHOh3
Twitter
RT @USAF_ACC: .@505th_CCW Shadow Operations Center-Nellis participated in the most recent @usairforce Advanced Battle Management System (AB…
Facebook
The newest Air Force Podcast recently dropped. Listen to a small snippet of CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright talk with Staff Sgt. New about resiliency. Listen to the entire podcast on Youtube: https://go.usa.gov/xpnAD or Subscribe to The Air Force Podcast on iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/podcast/the-air-force-podcast/id1264107694?mt=2
Facebook
Our mantra, "Always ready!" It's the spirit we fly by! #B2Tuesday
Facebook
Need some motivation to get your week started off right? Listen as CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright weighs in...
Facebook
The U.S. Air Force Academy gives its cadets some unique opportunities. Ride along one of this opportunities.
Facebook
A United States Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker refuels an F-22 Raptor over northern Iraq, Nov. 6, 2019. U.S. Central Command operations deter adversaries and demonstrate support for allies and partners in the region. (Video by Staff Sgt. Daniel Snider)
Facebook
Although the Silver Star is the third-highest military medal, it's not given often. Today, TSgt Cody Smith was the 49th Special Tactics Airman to receive this medal since Sept. 11th, 2001. Read more of TSgt Smith's amazing story: https://www.airforcespecialtactics.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/2024815/special-tactics-airman-battled-through-injuries-awarded-silver-star/fbclid/IwAR2LZWwx1VHdTnQe39rIEBOuJS_0JvMQBBGt7I-E6zsxxn-Lx9387yu43Bc/ Cannon Air Force Base Air Force Special Operations Command United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)
Facebook
Tune in as our Air Force musicians along with other military musicians are awarded the National Medal of Arts.
Facebook
Like Us
Twitter
1,284,749
Follow Us