F-15 sustainment team visits 173rd, gets ground-level input from maintainers
By Master Sgt. Jennifer Shirar, 173rd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published January 14, 2016
KINGSLEY FIELD, Ore. -- The 173rd Fighter Wing hosted a group of F-15 Sustainment professionals for a customer service visit Dec. 5, 2015. The group consisted of individuals from the Air Logistics Center and System Program Office. Among the group was Maj. Gen. T. Glenn Davis, the mobilization assistant to the commander, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center.
Kingsley Field was one of the few F-15 bases the group was touring to garner a direct look at the mission and needs of the F-15 community.
Davis said it is important that they "get out from behind our desks and see the mission firsthand."
Col. Jeffrey Smith, 173rd Maintenance Group commander said this tour helps these staff members "reconnect with the operational units so they can see the tangible effects of the decisions and policies."
Smith directed the tour, leading them through the different areas of the maintenance group and providing an overall view of the mission. However, it was the individual maintainers that spent the majority of the time talking.
Davis and the group listened as the Airmen that turn the wrenches explained the daily challenge of maintaining aircraft that are up to 37 years old. They showed the visitors how they grapple with these issues, innovating ways to keep aircraft flying. One example of this was the way Kingsley maintainers pioneered a process to inspect wing spars on the aircraft, an area that stress tests showed vulnerable to cracking as flight hours climb past the original service-life estimates.
This particular problem revolved around the need to send the aircraft off station to maintenance depot at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia where they remove the entire wing to inspect the wing spars. In February 2015 members of the 173rd sheet metal shop created a tool that allows them to remove a small area of the aircrafts' titanium skin without damaging the wing spar it touches, thus giving them access to inspect it. This simple invention saves countless man-hours and months of aircraft down time, not to mention costs that could run to the millions.
Davis applauded the sheet metal shop for their innovative thinking and precision work, helping to maintain airworthiness for the legacy aircraft. However, these maintainers stressed the fact that despite such innovations the need for spare parts hampers the mission and keeps otherwise good jets on the ground.
In the previous issue of the Kingsley Chronicle Smith outlined a steadily declining mission capable rate, the ratio of actual flyable aircraft to the total number of aircraft on the ramp, and its correlation to the lack of available parts in the supply system.
This was one of the primary messages Smith and the maintainers shared with the group. "A significant Service Life Enhancement Program is needed for both structural and systems modernization," said Smith. "We also stressed the fact that supply inefficiencies are crippling our ability to produce sufficient sorties and add risk to the already risky business of flying and fixing 35 plus year old fighter aircraft."
Smith says the tour was a huge success and really helped these individuals connect with our mission needs. "I was proud to watch our maintainers discuss their concerns with a 2-star general and multiple colonels from across the country-our personnel clearly communicated and demonstrated many current issues at hand. Maj. Gen. Davis conveyed how impressed he was the skill and dedication of our maintenance group professionals," he added.
The F-15 Sustainment group wrapped up their tour at Kingsley and headed north the next day to tour the 142nd Fighter Wing in Portland. Both the 173rd Fighter Wing and 142nd Fighter Wing fly the F-15 Eagle. The 173rd FW is home to the premier school house for the United States Air Force and the 142nd FW is responsible for providing continuous air defense and air superiority capabilities over the Pacific Northwest.