Lockout tools, bullets and hydraulic pump locks to aid the maintenance of C-27J Spartan aircraft have been designed by inventive aviators from the 35 Squadron Innovations Cell.
The group of aviators have combined their passion for design and productivity to develop a series of new tools.
This includes self-confessed nerd and innovation cell worker, Corporal Michael Niemiec, who created an elevator lockout tool on his home 3D printer.
This followed the maintenance team discovering an ill-fitting supplied tool during a deep-level servicing on the Spartan’s flight control cables.
Corporal Niemiec redesigned the tool with ‘Fusions 360’ software, and after two 3D printed attempts, the third fitted.
The tool now better fits to prevent tension on control cables during maintenance and is authorised for aircraft use via a locally manufactured tool standing instruction.
“It’s very satisfying creating something useful, and it’s pretty cool I can bring a tool back into work I created at home and see it used on the aircraft,” Corporal Niemiec said.
The innovation cell was created to assist the squadron, by making ideas a reality, and Corporal Niemiec said their success was driven by the want to help others.
After seeing a landing gear removal, Corporal Benjamin Scholl from Human Performance Assessment saw how a bolt could cause damage.
Five iterations were created before the final main landing gear bullet was created, which prevents damage to the airframe when undercarriage pins are installed.
“When I was a kid I used to pull stuff apart all the time, Mum and Dad hated it,” Corporal Scholl said. “They called me fiddle fingers – that’s what guided me into being an aircraft technician.”
Corporal Joshua O’Hara works in quality section and has an interest in 3D printing, laser cutting, and modelling software. He helped create a lockout tool to stop a hydraulic pump from accidentally being turned while maintainers replenish the hydraulics.
“You wouldn’t get jobs like this done without being a self-starter,” Corporal O’Hara said. “You can’t get caught up in your own limitations, and you need the ability to think outside the box but do things within regulations.”
The cell was established in 2019 to facilitate bottom-up innovation that can have an immediate value to the squadron.
“We’re all technicians, we’re all here to solve problems and get aircraft flying,” Corporal O’Hara said. “That translates over into what we do in both work and everyday life.”
Commanding Officer 35 Squadron Wing Commander David Torrington was proud members of 35 Squadron have taken the initiative to explore what is possible using 3D scanners and printers.
“Most impressively, these aviators have used their own personal learning, time and resources to undertake these tasks,” he said.