A $2 solution to a $3,000 problem

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Russ Jackson
  • 62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
A brand new circuit board for a rescue fire truck can cost more than $3,000 to replace, regardless of why it has malfunctioned, but fire truck maintainers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, dug a little deeper into the issue and discovered a $2 solution.

Recently, the shop was faced with replacing one of their own dashboard panels as a truck began displaying a compartment open light in error. Maintainers were able to trace the issue to the power distribution panel in the cab of the truck and discovered a transistor had failed.

"We called the company who manufactures the truck and they gave us a quote of $2,998, plus shipping to replace the entire circuit card," said Nick DeLeon, the 627th Logistics Readiness Squadron heavy mobile equipment mechanic leader. "We're not trained in circuit cards but can identify that the problem originated from the card, at which point we would typically just replace it."

DeLeon has worked with McChord's avionics shop in the past and decided to run the circuit card by them in order to gain more in-depth knowledge about the card. Together, they traced the error down to a single failed transistor within the circuit card.

"A quick trip up to a local electronics store and $2 later we had a fixed fire truck," DeLeon said. "This is the second transistor that we've replaced like this and so far we've saved the Air Force more than $6,000. We have never replaced a circuit card because of this issue."

DeLeon's next step is to upload the fix in to the Joint Deficiency Reporting System.

The JDRS provides a common, seamless solution for deficiency reporting and resolution management across the aeronautical enterprise.

DeLeon spoke with a local company that deals with the exact same trucks, except they belong to The Boeing Company and Seattle Tacoma International Airport. They had seen the same problems but, until DeLeon called them, had not discovered a solution that did not involve completely replacing the circuit card.

To help replace the transistor, fire truck maintainers took the circuit card and the new transistor to Staff Sgt. Jesse Thorn, a 62nd Maintenance Squadron intermediate section craftsman, at the avionics shop.

Replacing the part took less than an hour, allowing the fire truck to be back up and running before the end of the day. This is compared to having to replace the card completely, which could leave the truck out of commission for up to two months.

"We work on line replaceable units that come off the C-17 (Globemaster III) aircrafts,” Thorn said. “We can work on electronics and circuit cards, kind of like this one.”