New avionics invention saves Gunfighters time, money

  • Published
  • By Airman First Class Andrew Kobialka
  • 366th FW

Wasting time is annoying. For a company, it costs money. For the Air Force, it could cost lives. So what if you had an idea to make things better and save time? Could you make your idea a reality?

The Air Force says yes.

That’s exactly the case of Senior Master Sgt. Mike Chandler, 142nd Maintenance Squadron avionics backshop flight chief out of the Portland Air National Guard. He spent years inventing, planning and implementing his invention.

Chandler has teamed up with the 366th Maintenance Squadron here to build and integrate his Avionics Electronic Systems Test Station (ESTS) Cable Tester design that is projected to significantly enhance combat readiness and save resources.

“The ESTS test station is used to test flight control computers, radar units and communication systems on the F-15E Strike Eagle,” Chandler said.

Every F-15 has a complex avionics system that has 4 main cables, Chandler said. Each cable has 400 pins that are essential to ensure proper functionality. And unfortunately, they have a tendency to break and then you must test each pin to find the problem.

“Without a self-test routine Airmen are left to check all 400 pins manually,” Chandler said. “Manual testing takes at least 2 hours per cable for an experienced Airman.”

Even after a manual test, there can be a lot of false-positives, Chandler said. This wastes more time because Airmen may mistakenly believe the cable is working properly so they continue to look for the problem elsewhere.

“Technicians would spend 1-2 man-hours per cable, 4-8 man-hours per cable set, checking continuity pin-to-pin using a multimeter,” Chandler said. “With the cable tester it now takes 30 seconds or less per cable.”

Upon arrival to Mountain Home AFB, Chandler brought a working cable tester to demo test all of our ESTS station cables and within 5 minutes found 7 of their 12 cables to have defective or intermittent wires. Reducing 24 hours of work to 5 minutes with near perfect accuracy.

Staff Sgt. Brent Roberson, 366th Maintenance Squadron avionics backshop technician, is working with Chandler to build the cable tester for the Gunfighters.

Roberson said, “This new tool is great! This will save huge amounts of time. We didn’t realize that there was so much room for improvement.”

This cable tester enables Gunfighters to be faster and significantly enhances our readiness on a wing level, Roberson explained.

The benefits of this new tool are seen immediately and are long-lasting.

Over time this new cable tester is projected to save Gunfighters over $100,000 and over 200 man-hours annually. It will also greatly improve the reliability of avionics maintenance and greatly reduce troubleshooting man-hours spent maintaining avionics test stations.

“Time is readiness,” Chandler said.

The tester has proven to enhance readiness by recapturing time spent manually troubleshooting intermittent wiring fails and spending that captured time on more value-added works in direct support of the flying mission for readiness preparation.

Chandler said he is excited to teach Gunfighters how to build the cable tester for ourselves. He has been impressed with the drive of the Airmen here so far.

Gunfighters have a history of leading innovation and are doing so here, once again. Airmen are empowered to let their ideas become reality and have a direct impact on the strength of air power. What’s your next great idea?

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