Hill civilian's engineering saves millions on F-16 repairs
Published: Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2011 5:06 p.m. MDT
By Steve Fidel, Deseret News
HILL AIR FORCE BASE â€” Moving parts that control the radar antenna inside the nose of an F-16 were designed to last a lifetime.
And they did.
But then that life expectancy of a decade or less was extended: The F-16 program turns 33 later this month, and F-16s are expected to be part of the Air Force inventory until 2025.
Maintenance complications have developed when the vastly extended life of the aircraft meant those lifetime parts began to need repair. In the case of the radar antenna, removing the internal bearings sometimes resulted in $12,500 damage to the back of the surrounding base assembly, which takes 16 hours of labor to replace and requires another $12,000 in new electrical wiring.
Terry Rettenberger, an equipment specialist with the 416th Supply Management Squadron at Hill Air Force Base, took the problem to the component manufacturer in 2008. Instead of finding a solution, he said he was simply told: "That happens a lot."
The response stirred the creative energy of a man who does not have an engineering degree, but is an engineering "natural." He has also worked with missile systems and electrical components on the F-4. On his own time, he pilots his own plane, has built and raced dragsters and has a sophisticated metal shop at home.
He drew sketches and then went home and got to work. "I made all this at home with my own material," he said of the tools he has made.
Along with other tools Rettenberger built exclusively for use on F-16s, the the base now uses Rettenberger's innovations on each of the 550 to 600 F-16s that come through the repair depot each year.
The Air Force figures Rettenberger saved them $6.5 million in the first year alone. The accomplishment resulted in Rettenberger receiving an Air Force Productivity Excellence Award and a $30,000 reward from the Air Force's IDEA program.
"The IDEA program is an excellent way to reward employees who suggest ideas that create a more efficient way forward for the Air Force," said Teri Gibby, IDEA program manager at Hill.
Rettenberger credits his entire team for the design and implementation of his ideas. He used part of the reward money to expand his home and shop. "I bought more tools," he said. "I've got three ideas that I'm working on right now."
source: http://www.deseretnews.com/article/7053 ... pairs.html