PRINCE SULTAN AIR BASE, KINGDOM OF SAUDI ARABIA --
It is often said that necessity is the mother of invention. One could argue the same assertion as it pertains to innovation as a whole.
In this spirit of innovation, the hydraulic back-shop technicians of the 378th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron at Prince Sultan Air Base, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, have responded to the needs of their organization and its mission with tangible results. They refused to allow the absence of traditional diagnostic equipment to render their operation fruitless.
Both Airman First Class Wellbaum and Staff Sergeant May agree that equipment constraints are the biggest challenge to operating a hydraulic back-shop in a deployed environment.
In a conventional hydraulic back-shop setup, the team is outfitted with an Avitech Test Stand with robust features in order to conduct precision pressure checks on hydraulic components. However, in a deployed environment, with lean operations and long supply chains, resourcefulness is key. For that reason, Sergeant May and Airman Wellbaum relied on their technical savvy to find a way to perpetuate the success of their unit’s mission. Realizing that they had a portable hydraulic test stand at their disposal, with similar features to the Avitech Test Stand, these technicians procured adapter fittings and hoses in order to configure this piece of aerospace ground equipment into a makeshift component test station.
The portable test stand, affectionately known by maintainers as the “mule” is typically used in providing hydraulic pressure to aircraft to troubleshoot discrepancies or to operationally check aircraft systems.
What these technician were able to successfully achieve was to exploit what is known as an organizational level maintenance capability, applying it into a broader context and leveraging it in an intermediate level maintenance capacity. This conversion enabled the maintenance squadron to enhance the repair network at Prince Sultan Air Base, thus circumventing significant mission impacting parts delays. Furthermore, this technical versatility embodies the very mindset that is the driving force behind innovation in support of flying operations.
For Staff Sergeant May, it is prioritizing mission success over moderate inconvenience that allowed his team to enjoy success in this environment, despite the lack of amenities. “Being prepared for the unexpected has become a part of military life,” said Sergeant May.
Airman Wellbaum attributes his training and understanding of the normal processes as the reasons he feels comfortable resorting to alternate methods.
At the end of the day, when it comes to challenging situations, hydraulic technicians are built to handle this kind of pressure.