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McChord Airmen axe extra inspection

62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Published: 04:54PM June 12th, 2014

Each C-17 Globemaster III assigned to the fleet is equipped with an ultra-high frequency satellite antenna, providing air crews access to speech communication channels via satellite link.

When these antennas need to be replaced, it is not an inexpensive fix.

A McChord maintenance Airman noticed his unit was replacing a significant number of these antennas because they were failing a strict manufacturer’s inspection.

The antennas were not identified as defective. They were functional, albeit failed to meet the manufacturer’s tight parameters.

“The verbage of the technical order states that if the antenna fails this inspection, then it must be replaced,” said Tech. Sgt. Joshua Taylor, 62nd Maintenance Squadron engineering and logistics liaison. “Up to this point, there was no way around replacing them.”

At McChord’s product improvement section, Taylor had to ensure it would be safe to discontinue the inspection. He conferred with Boeing engineers, then presented the issue to Air Mobility Command.

Taylor researched the money McChord was spending on replacement antennas, and the time it was taking to make the repairs.

Taylor felt that after the antennas passed the initial manufacturer inspection, they could be safely operated.

AMC concurred with that assessment and authorized the removal of the costly fleetwide inspection from the home station checklist.

When McChord’s product improvement section brought the issue to light, it had an immediate worldwide impact on the C-17 fleet and the Air Force’s budget.

At $8,000 per unit, McChord maintainers have changed 40, saving $320,000.

“The total historical money amount we have spent fleetwide changing these antennas is $7.5 million,” said Tech. Sgt. Joseph Bilger, 62nd MXS product improvement manager.

After AMC granted approval to remove the inspection from checks, Bilger drafted a technical order change and routed it to engineers at Robins Air Force Base, Ga.

Once it passed a technical order review board, the changes became official and Bilger informed the maintainers who brought the issue to the attention of his office.

Now, the satellite communication antennas must pass the rigorous inspection only when they leave the manufacturer.

C-17 maintainers will put the antennas through other inspections and air crews will advise them if they are having issues during flight.

Thanks to adoption of Taylor’s suggestion, these functional antennas will remain on the aircraft until they are in need of real repair.