B-1 tool born out of necessity

  • Published
  • By Jacob McGuire, Staff Writer

Sometimes tasks aren’t chosen, but are instead predestined.

Melvin Pruitt, a sheet metal mechanic for the 567th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, said in 2015, he was tasked with repairing the nutplates on the inboard cockpit kick panels for the B-1 bomber. During that process he found that the area was hard to access using the tool provided to secure the nutplates.

“I knew this was a flight critical area and a hard-to-reach area,” he said. “I made a prototype of the tool out of aluminum.”

Pruitt said after taking the measurements needed to create blueprints for designing the prototype, engineers were called in to review how the tool worked and give final approval. 

According to Pruitt, the tool’s blueprints were created by Philip Baker, a project engineer with the 567th. It was then forwarded to the machine shop for manufacture and is currently being used in B-1, B-52 and other weapons systems.

“It has been in use for about the last three-and-a-half years,” Pruitt said. “The tool ensures that the nutplates were installed properly. I would estimate it saved at least $300,000. If we’re looking at per jet, it’s even more.”

Pruitt is not new to developing tools. Before coming to work at Tinker, he worked for M-D Building Products in Oklahoma City, as a dye tooling technician.

However, he said even with experience creating tools, he couldn’t do it alone.

“Just to name a few: Steven Fox, unit chief of the Maintenance Repair and Overhaul Technology Center, Stella Janosky of the 76th Aircraft Maintenance Group, as well as Robert Leverton and Lewis Hofield all played major roles in creating this tool,” he said.

Even though this task wasn’t necessarily in his purview, Pruitt said he felt it was necessary. 

“I put myself in the same position that all these brave men and women that fly these aircraft do on a daily basis,” he said. “It is very important that we do things right to keep them safe. The job duties we perform here are critical and there is absolutely no room for error. We have the power to do the right thing and the ‘Pruitt Tool’ played a vital part in keeping our Airmen safe.”

The 567th is comprised of about 750 people who work directly with the B-1, handling depot-level overhauls in an effort to keep aircraft updated, safe and combat-ready for worldwide operations.