ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --
At the 97th Air Mobility Wing, C-17 Globemaster III, KC-46 Pegasus and KC-135 Stratotanker students are trained continuously to become operational Airmen. Concurrently, maintainers with the 97th Maintenance Squadron work to keep Airmen safe and move the mission of Mobility’s Hometown forward.
Due to the base’s primary training mission, the aircraft used to support it requires more routine maintenance. This means that the equipment used to facilitate this maintenance must also be regularly checked to ensure serviceability - namely the engine trailers, or cradles, which provide maintainers with the ability to remove, replace and repair aircraft engines whenever needed.
“With Altus being an AETC base, we do a lot more flying maneuvers that tend to be harder on the engines compared to the aircraft at other bases, which means engine changes are going to be prevalent,” said John Hatchel, 97th MXS fabrication flight chief. “Ensuring the safety of this frequently used equipment is essential to fulfilling the mission here.”
Once a year, the trailers must undergo a maintenance test to ensure reliability, structure and safety standards. In order to prevent potential injuries during this annual inspection, maintainers from the 97th MXS fabrication and aerospace ground equipment flights teamed up to create a safer engine trailer test weight. The idea involves using an electrical pulley system to hoist a 14,000 pound cement block onto the trailer, simulating the weight of a C-17 engine without putting the safety of a real engine or the maintainers that work on it at risk.
The old concept of the test weight is simple: a 14,000 pound slab of cement cradled in a reinforced steel casing, designed to have the same weight as a C-17 engine. The new design, brought up by Lonnie Taylor, 97th AMX AGE flight chief, consists of three separate cement blocks in steel casing, with the same combined total weight as the old weight. Justin Crosswhite and Bobby Sams, 97th MXS welders, then designed and built the weight from scratch.
U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Michael Molhzon, the superintendent of the Wing Innovation Advancement Center assigned to the 97th Air Mobility Wing, said the new engine test weight is “simple, effective and just plain brilliant.”
“One of the biggest concerns in today's industrial society, and within the Air Force, is safety. You can’t successfully fulfill the mission if you do not have people, so we need to be sure and keep our people safe before anything else," said Hatchel. "This new test weight for the C-17 Globemaster was not just built to be more efficient, but this new design could be the tool which could potentially save a life.”