U.S. Air Force Group Updates Wheel Painting Design

Brandon Catbagan, an aircraft structural maintenance technician with the U.S. Air Forces 6th Maintenance Squadron, prepares to paint a wheel at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, USA. Photo by Zachary Foster, Airman 1st Class.

Within the U.S. Air Force, the metals technology and corrosion control units of the 6th Maintenance Group (MXG) recently collaborated to create and implement a new wheel painting stand design that will allow Airmen to produce twice as much in half the time.

According to the Air Force, the 6th MXG’s corrosion control unit found it needed to make painting and priming processes for KC-135 aircraft more efficient on installations. Citing a need for new equipment, the corrosion unit requested assistance from the metals technology unit.

“When the corrosion shop reached out for a redesign, we jumped at the opportunity,” says Ryan Strittmatter, Air Force Staff Sgt. and metals technician with the 927th Maintenance Squadron. “This was the perfect time for us to demonstrate our skills in a creative and productive way.”

Limits of Previous Design

The previous design lacked a mobile base, interchangeable wheel components, and was unreasonably sized for the average Airmen, the Air Force explains.

The process originally consisted of blasting, inspecting, masking, priming, painting and touch-ups with the majority of time spent drying in between steps. In total, Airmen were spending as much as eight hours per wheel and up to 72 hours on a set.

“Before we implemented the updated design, it was taking three full days to complete a single set of wheels,” says Kurtis Gieger, Air Force Tech. Sgt. and a sheet metal technician for the 6th MXG. “Now we have been able to double our output in that same span of time.”

Alternative Design Benefits

Over the course of a month, Strittmatter and his team developed an alternative design that includes space for two differently sized sets of wheels, as well as a free rotating component. This design uses equipment and resources that are all readily available in his shop.

The major improvement in the design came from the free rotating component, which allows Airmen access to 100% of the wheel while painting. This change was monumental, the Air Force explains, because it completely removed the time spent drying the wheels prior to touching up missed components.

To ensure equipment quality, Strittmatter maintained constant communication with the corrosion shop, taking their feedback and implementing it into later designs.

Strittmatter and the metals technology unit performed numerous safety evaluations as they ran their design through the 6th MXG chain of command and prior to workplace implementation.

Next Steps in the Process

Currently, Strittmatter and the metals technology unit are in the approval process to push the design across the Air Force. The final design requires minor adjustments to accommodate alternate aircraft tires.

“We have been working closely with the Air Force Research Lab to push the directive to other bases,” Strittmatter says. “They have been able to take our design and develop a 3-D [three-dimensional] rendering that will hopefully be used by other installations facing similar issues.”

As the 6th Air Refueling Wing transitions from operating the KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft to the KC-46 Pegasus aircraft in the coming years, new adaptive technology will be integral in ensuring the wing is able to carry out desired missions at every level.

“This is the kind of innovation that we love to see,” says Charity Banks, Air Force Col. And 6th MXG commander. “If you see a problem, fix it. Maintainers charge the storm!”.

Source: U.S. Defense Visual Information Distribution Service, www.dvidshub.net.

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