NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE: It all begins on the walls of a stereotypical conference room cluttered with large drawn out diagrams, procedures and step-by-step directions of how Bolt Aircraft Maintenance Unit (AMU) gets their fleet of F-35A Lightning IIs mission-ready on a daily basis. Maintenance personnel and civilians are dispersed throughout the room brainstorming how to streamline maintenance procedures.
Bolt AMU is working together with organizations within the Air Force to provide new technological programs and to provide ready access to maintenance databases through tablets that teams can use planeside.
Kessel Run is an agile software development and acquisition program that works alongside Airmen worldwide
“These new programs are important for the Air Force because the quicker we can get to information, whether it’s about our job specifically or about our personnel, the better,” said Senior Airman Aaron Hooks, an F-35A dedicated crew chief assigned to the 57th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Bolt AMU.
Mad Hatter is the name of the team run by Kessel Run that is aiming to improve efficiency for the maintenance crews, and in return, offer more flight time for pilots flying the aircraft.
“The software being tested by the maintenance teams has the potential to increase combat capability for the warfighter,” said Capt. Michael Bell, the former Maintenance Operations Flight commander assigned to the 57th Maintenance Group. “Decreased maintenance down time means the aircraft is more available for flying operations. Lessons learned from these efforts can also help scope and scale future software acquisition projects.”
Maintenance teams have many technical orders (TOs) that must be followed properly for an aircraft to able to fly but sometimes finding the specific TO can be difficult for them under the existing system.
“Monocle is the specific app that was developed by Mad Hatter to address issues with search results for specific technical data that was needed to complete maintenance tasks,” said Bell. “Monocle has addressed this problem by built-in search logic that returns fewer and more accurate results for the maintenance teams. This helps the maintenance teams get to work faster and in-turn gets the aircraft back in the air.”
Bell said with the refined search capabilities of the new program, it has the potential to produce up to a 30% decrease in maintenance time for teams.
“If you have the information right there in front of you, on a screen that is constantly updating, it’s going to be the most productive and easiest way of keeping tabs on what’s going on,” said Hooks.
The tablets help maintenance staff while working on aircraft and they eventually will provide TOs, personnel trackers, work orders and more from one platform.
“The tablets are lightweight and easy to use,” said Hooks. “I can keep it on me at all times and keep my hands free while performing most maintenance tasks.”
The tests being conducted by Bolt AMU have the possibility of helping out other F-35 units down the road.
“Bolt AMU is a very interesting place because we get the opportunity to conduct a lot of tests,” said Staff Sgt. Oliver Gutierrez, an F-35A dedicated crew chief assigned to the 57th AMXS Bolt AMU. “We’re blessed to have the Kessel Run team here because the tests we do here have the chance to be implemented to the entire F-35 fleet worldwide.”
Airmen understand how they fit into the bigger picture when working on a project that can possibly help not only help the U.S. Air Force, Department of Defense but also foreign allies.
“We’re the start of all of it,” said Hooks, in regards to the Bolt AMU maintenance teams. “Which is cool because if it goes operational, that was something I worked on and I was one of the first people to test it.”
Advancements in technology are helping to make processes easier and more efficient, but maintenance professionals remain the heartbeat of the Air Force. Whether with cutting-edge software or an oily wrench, maintenance Airmen today are bringing the future faster.