Air Force Featured Stories

$20 solution solves 14K problem

  • Published
  • By Bekah Clark
  • 12th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs
T-38C Talon pilots and maintainers with the 12th Flying Training Wing will begin using newly-developed, multifunction display covers this month.

The covers are expected to save the wing $182,000 a year in broken MFDs, at the cost of only $3,600 -- just a little more than a quarter of the price for a single repaired MFD.

When the 12th Maintenance Directorate replaced 13 multifunction displays to the tune of $14,000 a piece last year, they knew there had to be a way to prevent the damage.

Through collaboration, maintainers and pilots determined the MFDs were usually damaged by ankle restraints in the new ejection seats contacting the display's glass during pre- and postflight operations.

Since the installation of the new ejection seats across the T-38C fleet is only 80 percent complete, the number of damaged MFDs was expected to climb even higher.

To solve the problem, T-38C maintainers and the 12th Operations Support Squadron's Aircrew Flight Equipment Survival Office locally designed, manufactured and tested protective covers for the glass screen on the MFDs for use while the aircraft is on the ground.

Ross Mills, the T-38 production supervisor, came up with the idea for the covers.

"We used to use metal covers to protect displays while a T-38 was in for phase and heavy maintenance," Mills said. "Metal wasn't going to work for daily use, so I knew we had to use fabric. We went through four different designs before we found one that worked best."

The covers are sewn together by a team of three AFE Survival technicians working as an assembly line, using industrial foam and the same fabric used for convertible car tops.

"The fabric was selected because of its durability," said John Pintirsch, a AFE survival supervisor. "It will fade less in the sun and it won't stretch out with repeated daily use."

From start to finish each cover takes about 45 minutes and less than $20, including labor and materials, to make. The team is nearing the completion of 180 covers -- one for each of the two screens in the 90 T-38s assigned to the 12th FTW.

The covers protect the glass MFD screens from the ankle restraints on the new ejection seats as well as all hazards during ground operations. They are taken off during the flight and look similar to a cover for a computer tablet.

In addition to helping the wing avoid future repair costs, the covers will help keep the flying training timeline in the green.

"Every time an MFD's glass is broken, that's one less jet we have for flying operations," Mills said. "It takes an hour to replace if we have a screen on hand; if we don't, it could be up to two days to get a replacement MFD installed and the jet back on the line."