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News > B-1 SPO problem solving leads to increased aircraft availability
B-1 SPO problem solving leads to increased aircraft availability

Posted 3/18/2011   Updated 3/18/2011 Email story   Print story


by Brandice J. O'Brien
Tinker Public Affairs

3/18/2011 - TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla.  -- The B-1B Lancer was in trouble. The brake lines were leaking hydraulic fluid and one aircraft had been lost because of it. Tinker's B-1 System Program Office, with a team at Ogden Air Logistics Center, Utah, stepped in and offered a solution, which proved invaluable. Lives were saved; the aircraft was redeemed and programmed depot maintenance flow days were reduced - an unintended consequence.

The solution -- replacing brake swivels and redesigning the wheels and brakes -- was being applied within a year of the 2009 task assignment. Safety-of-flight modification repairs are being made to the fleet and are expected to be finished by June.

"The modification is a great example of the Air Force Materiel Command team delivering to the warfighter," said Paul Ratke, B-1 SPO acting deputy chief for the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center Aerospace Sustainment Directorate's B-1 Sustainment Division. "It eliminates a known safety issue in the fleet, while at the same time reducing the time it takes maintainers to perform routine maintenance."

The problem started as a sporadic issue. Maintainers in the field would call the B-1 SPO, complaining of the hydraulic leak. Soon, the occasional phone call turned into a common occurrence, but officials didn't know why it was continually happening.

The final straw came in April 2008 when a B-1B returning to a forward operating location caught fire. Hydraulic fluid, leaking from the brake lines, had sprayed over the hot brakes. The crew escaped, but B-1B tail number 86-0116 exploded.

B-1 SPO engineers and logisticians, and Ogden ALC engineering -- the engineering authority for B-1 landing gear -- studied the problem found the root cause of the leaks could be attributed to the inflexible brake swivels. As it was, the brake swivels were becoming loose and vibrating, which caused the rigid brake lines to rupture and hydraulic fluid to leak.

They opted to replace the inflexible brake swivels with high-endurance flex lines, which cost $15,787 per aircraft; whereas the cost for a B-1B is roughly $280 million.

"The ultimate savings is we're preventing an aircrew from being in danger," said Rick Cantwell, OC-ALC/GK Life Cycle Logistics lead.

Yet, it also saves 76th Maintenance Wing personnel who work on the B-1 time and steps.

"Previously when they had to replace a brake and tire on the B-1, they had to completely drain the hydraulic system," Mr. Cantwell said. "Now, because of the hydraulic fuses, hydraulic fluid no longer has to be drained. It saves on servicing time, hazardous material gear, HAZMAT clean-up and the Air Force of hydraulic fluid. There's a lot of savings there."

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