Stealth pilots and high school students created an airframe mounted accessory drive (AMAD) panel cover for the US Air Force’s (USAF) B-2 stealth bomber.
The innovative part was developed in response to a recognised potential issue within the B-2, which forms the core of the stealth mission at Whiteman Air Force Base (AFB).
The USAF needed to find a solution to protect a four-switch panel, AMAD, which sits on the left side of the B-2’s two-person cockpit.
The AMAD switches are designed to control the connection of the engines to the hydraulic and generator power of the aircraft.
Whiteman AFB approached Knob Noster High School and community partners to work in collaboration to develop the solution.
Whiteman AFB 509th Bomb Wing commander brigadier general John Nichols said: “We wanted to make sure that these switches were protected. I had a feeling if we tapped our community partners, they would work hand-in-hand with our airmen.”
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Initially, Nichols suggested a rectangular, rounded cover similar to a butter dish to protect the switches.
The aim was to design a cover with an optimal customised fit that would not come loose during flight. In addition, the focus of the design was on ensuring the pilots can see the switches beneath the cover.
Knob Noster High School Stealth Panther Robotics students, assisted by B-2 pilots, drafted a variety of prototype designs and printed them on the school’s 3D printer.
Once the prototype was completed, it was sent to the B-2 simulator for testing.
The process leading to the final printed cover involved eight structurally different designs.
The robotics team incorporated feedback from the pilots and made small modifications to ensure the cover could be easily gripped and removed.
In addition, the cover was designed to withstand the pressurisation and heat requirements of the flight.
Following testing and approval, the AMAD panel cover is now in use in the USAF B-2 stealth aircraft fleet.