Science and Technology News

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Switching it up: E&E replaces F-16 harness

by Airman 1st Class Kenna Jackson
35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

10/23/2012 - MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- During a post-flight inspection, an error was found with the 22 year-old, D-modeled, two-seater F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft. A few lights and electrical components weren't doing what they were supposed to, so the 14th Aircraft Maintenance Unit electrical and environmental flight was called to fix the problem.

That's when Staff Sgt. Kenneth Boswell, 14 AMU E&E craftsman, and his four-man team stepped up to get the job done.

"I like taking apart jets and putting them back together," said the seasoned sergeant, which is why he volunteered for the task.

When they removed a panel protecting the aircraft's interior, Boswell's team saw disconnected wires in the jets harness. The harness helps connect tubes of wiring, which enables the aircraft's computerized components to communicate. After further inspection, similar damages made over the jet's lifetime were also found.

"It was a mess," said Boswell. "Since the jet was already heading to OBOGS, the team decided to replace the whole harness."

The Onboard Oxygen Generation Systems is an upgrade that replaces the conventional oxygen system with new equipment, enabling the aircraft to generate its own oxygen. It's also an upgrade the wing has been doing since September of last year.

Jet number 90-0844 was lucky enough to be the last aircraft scheduled to receive this upgrade, said Staff Sgt. Phillip Cleveland, 14 AMU E&E craftsman.

There are several harnesses in every jet; each one is responsible for something different. The harness that needed to be replaced supplied power for flight control systems and AC/DC distribution. For non-maintainers, this has nothing to do with the rock music group; instead, it has everything to do with electrical current.

Alternate current, or AC, is the flow of electric charge that periodically reverses direction. Direct current, 'DC', is the flow of electric charge in only one direction.

In general, there are four sections to the overall flight control system, said Boswell. The aircraft is still functional with only two of these sections working, but it still places the pilot in risky situations.

"When it comes to electrical problems, every malfunction poses a threat to the pilot's safety and needs to be taken care of immediately," said Boswell.

With the intricate design of the jet's guts exposed, switching out the old harness with a new one parallels to messing around with a jigsaw puzzle. Luckily for Boswell's team, they have their technical orders and experience to guide them.

"We have our tech data, or TOs, to tell us where things go but, mostly we rely on our on-the-job training," said Boswell. "When you've been around aircraft for a while you kind of develop a sense for everything that has to do with your job. Similar to knowing how to use a screwdriver or when to use a wrench, putting together an F-16 becomes second nature."

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