By Debbie Gregory.
When a mechanical issue compromised the stealth of the F-22 Raptor, it was a big problem. Luckily, a small team of Airmen were able to develop an innovative solution.
The team’s problem solving is a testament to the amount of responsibility and confidence the Air Force puts in its Airmen, regardless of age or experience.
“During roll call, our expediter (an experienced crew chief responsible for coordinating required maintenance taskings) gave out the tasks for the day. My task was to figure out why we were having this re-occurring problem with one of the jets,” said 23 year-old Senior Airman Samuel Privett, a 43rd Aircraft Maintenance Unit weapons load crew member.
Privett spent a lot of time working with his team and interpreting the engineering diagrams to trace the problem the jet had.
“It took us about two days and several people overall to finally nail it down,” said Privett, who used the in-house fabrication machine to forge a $250 dollar solution that salvaged the $140 million plane, also saving 200 hours of maintenance and valuable flight time for the jet. Replacing the entire affected system would have cost approximately $40,000 to $50,000
This in-flight weapons system maintenance issue affected the radar cross section of the F-22 and persisted over a period of a few months. This reduced the effectiveness of the F-22’s low observability, which meant enemy aircraft and radars — operational or simulated — would have a better chance of identifying the aircraft.
Thanks to Privett and his team, who he says were instrumental in the task, the F-22 now joins only 186 others in service.
“Senior Airman Privett plays a key role in fostering teamwork and ensuring accurate communication from shift to shift,” said Master Sgt. David A. Riddle, the 43rd AMU weapons flight chief. “In conjunction with other members of the mighty 43rd Hornet Weapons Flight, we were able to isolate the malfunction that had been eluding us for quite some time.”