USAF to implement airman’s solution for KC-135 fleet boom operators
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USAF to implement airman solution for boom operators across KC-135 fleet

26 Aug 2021 (Last Updated August 26th, 2021 15:01)

The new design was first installed in a KC-135 at Altus air force base in Oklahoma in November 2019.

USAF to implement airman solution for boom operators across KC-135 fleet
USAF senior master sergeant Bartek Bachleda from McConnell AFB briefs his idea to the Spark Tank panel in February 2018. Credit: USAF / Wayne A Clark.

US Air Force (USAF) airman’s boom operator instructor platform design is set to be fully implemented across the fleet of KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft.

The new instructor platform was designed by USAF senior master sergeant Bartek Bachleda.

The design was submitted to the USAF’s first Spark Tank competition, which he won, in early 2018.

Bachleda’s design was first installed in a KC-135 at Altus air force base (AFB) in Oklahoma in November 2019.

It was then evaluated before it achieved initial operational capability (IOC) and a time compliance technical order (TCTO) issuance.

Air Force A4 Logistics issued TCTO for full integration of the solution across the complete KC-135 aircraft.

The design will replace all KC-135 instructor platforms across the service, keeping mobility airmen safe and mission ready.

Spark Tank director Brou Gautier said: “Airmen and Guardians like master sergeant Bachleda are thinkers with a passion for solving problems and they’ve shown us that cost-effective, innovative solutions resonate with senior leaders.”

“It’s fitting that Spark Tank’s first winning idea has been implemented.

“More will follow and that should motivate every intrapreneur to get their ideas out there and in the competition. The worst idea is the one not known.”

According to the USAF, the innovation comes in the wake of enhancing the mission effectiveness and quality of life of KC-135 boom operators at Altus AFB.

The new boom operator platform design aims to minimise neck and back injuries that boom operators experience in their daily operations.

It is 80% less expensive compared to other designs.

The new design has helped improve airmen’s health and reduced an approximately $100m in annual medical costs associated with neck, back and shoulder injuries.

Bachleda said: “Our airforce is a child of innovation — no one dreamed of any airforce until two innovative bicycle manufacturers dared the impossible and willed an aeroplane into existence almost 118 years ago.

“Innovation knows no borders, speaks every language, lives in every time zone, holds every (airforce specialty code), transcends all ranks, loves imagination and it thrives on persistence. But it is no accident, it is simply born of necessity.”