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Inspecting Tires, Saving Lives

The 366th Equipment Maintenance Squadron wheel and tire shop spends numerous hours making sure the tires that go through the shop are in top-notch condition so they can endure the stressors of supporting F-15E Strike Eagles.

Tech. Sgt. Jose Cruz Ramos, NCO in charge of 366th Equipment Maintenance Squadron wheel and tire shop, checks the pressure of a tire, Nov. 2, 2017, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. The purpose of the tire checks is to help ensure the safety of the aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alaysia Berry)

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- The 366th Equipment Maintenance Squadron wheel and tire shop spends numerous hours making sure the tires that go through the shop are in top-notch condition so they can endure the stressors of supporting F-15E Strike Eagles.

It’s a job often overlooked, but it is a key player in supporting the Gunfighter mission.

Earlier this year, the F-15E Strike Eagles received new brake systems, with wheels already assembled.

Tech. Sgt. Jose Cruz Ramos, NCO in charge of wheel and tire, explained that when they received the first wheel back from the flightline, it was disassembled, cleaned, and inspected.

“I noticed (a defect) when we were reassembling the wheel,” said Cruz Ramos. “I was the one training the guys on the new wheels.”

As he was assembling the new wheel, he noticed the ring of the tire was actually not going through a portion that’s supposed to lock a mechanism in place.

The shop already ordered parts for the new wheels, so they tried every one of them to see if it would fix the problem.

After trying over 200 parts on the wheel, and seeing that every single part didn’t fit, he notified his section chiefs. They decided to notify the flightline to let them know what was going on, and contacted the engineers who designed the parts as well.

Upon further inspection, aircraft that were already on the flying schedule were checked for this issue. Cruz Ramos discovered that a piece was coming off the wheel, and it wasn’t holding parts of the tire together.

“This aircraft could have potentially crashed,” said Senior Master Sgt. Shane Mitchell, 366th EMS crash and recovery section chief. “The nut that the retaining ring was supposed to be holding onto had already backed off. It’s possible that a 50 million dollar aircraft could have crashed in another two or three weeks if he hadn’t have caught this.”

It turns out that the error was in the drawings given to the manufacturer, which was why none of the new parts would work.

As a result of this discovery, the Time Compliance Technical Order, a manual created to upgrade or change a process to do something more efficiently, was put on hold for the whole Air Force.

“Currently every wheel that is affected by this is being replaced, and the manufacturers are manufacturing new rings,” said Cruz Ramos. “Every base around the Air Force that flies F-15E’s will be affected.”

Cruz Ramos takes his position as the NCOIC of wheel and tire maintenance seriously.

“I oversee every single wheel that goes through my shop,” said Cruz Ramos. “I’m pretty much the only person that signs the wheels off saying ‘this is good’. If it’s bad, it doesn’t go out. These are the standards I keep for myself and my guys. They know if anything comes from our shop its 100%. There is no 99% or 99.5%. It’s either 100% or it’s not.”

Mitchell explained that it felt really good knowing that an Airman he supervises caught something that could have had a detrimental effect on our F-15E’s.

“He’s very good at his job, which is why we made him the NCOIC of wheel and tire,” said Mitchell. “This just shows his capabilities and that he was put in the right position.”

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