ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. --
Back shops provide a technical service that Airmen working the flight line depend on in order to keep aircraft running safely, efficiently and smoothly. They spend countless hours troubleshooting components, ordering equipment and fixing parts.
One such back shop at Ellsworth found a way to cut the time it takes to troubleshoot B-1 bomber aircraft components by nearly 98 percent.
The 28th Maintenance Squadron Electrical and Environmental section started using the new Eclypse testing system to assess both electrical and environmental Line-Replaceable Units that provide the jet with power, cooling, oxygen and many other essential systems.
“Here at the back shop, we take parts that have been taken off the aircraft that need repair, we troubleshoot them to find out exactly what is wrong, and then repair them as needed,” said Staff Sgt. Michael Koch, an E&E craftsman assigned to the 28th MXS.
These repairs are crucial to keeping B-1s in the air.
“We deal with overhead electrical panels, environmental panels, hydraulic indicator panels and batteries,” Koch said. “These are all parts that are absolutely necessary to allow the aircraft to fly.”
The overhead electrical panel in a B-1 provides pilots with power to the entire aircraft, and without it, the jet would never be able to start. The E&E shop can now troubleshoot this part more efficiently.
“It used to take 10 hours to check it on our old system,” said Senior Airman Mark Lee, an E&E journeyman assigned to the 28th MXS. “Now, with our Eclypse tester, it takes us about 10 minutes to test the whole panel.”
The Eclypse tester is an Automated Wire Test Set that can be programmed to check the wiring in circuits, and contains power supplies capable of energizing relays. The programmer translates the steps of the technical order into a computer programming language that will perform those steps automatically within the parameters specified. Once a program is written, it can be saved and used every time that same type of circuit needs to be tested. The test program can also be modified in the event there is a change to the technical order steps.
Before they had this AWTS, Airmen had to check every single wire by hand using a multi-meter on each LRU they repaired. An LRU containing several hundred wires could prove to be a very tedious task as each wire was checked for resistance by hand. Instead, the AWTS is capable of making these same measurements in hundredths of a second with incredible accuracy. Once initiated by the user, a test program can accomplish hundreds of steps in the technical order within minutes. The results are output to a laptop, which can easily be reviewed and saved for trend analysis.
Lee estimates that at Ellsworth alone, with this state of the art system, will save approximately 4,200 man-hours annually. Between Ellsworth and Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, he also said that the new system will save the Air Force around $428,000 a year.
Airmen in the E&E back shop have been receiving training on the state of the art system, learning how to program codes and how to operate the Eclypse tester. Even though the back shop has had this piece of testing equipment for going on three years, they had to teach themselves how to use it and make it work for them. It became operationally used just over eight months ago.
“It’s allowed [us] to get these parts figured out, troubleshot and repaired in a very quick manner, so we can focus on the next parts that come in,” Koch said. “Fixing parts now takes hours instead of days.”
Always trying to improve, Airmen see this upgrade as an upgrade in technology and a way forward.
“It makes me feel accomplished,” Lee said. “I prepare for the future.”