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C-5s on the flight line
C-5 “Phantom Smoke”

Master Sgt. Jason SmithThrough innovation and creativity, Air Force Reservist Master Sergeant Jason Smith was able to solve a large problem for less than $1,000 when he created a cost-effective filtration system for the C-5 “Phantom Smoke” issue.

In 2014, every C-5 Galaxy that went in to isochronal maintenance (ISO) dock at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, would have issues of smoke and a smell of burning petroleum. Efforts to pin-point the source of the smoke were intense to find where and how the petroleum was burning.  Each time a post-maintenance test flight reported smoke in the flight deck, maintenance troops would spend more than 700 man-hours troubleshooting the problem and would, inevitably, come up empty handed.  Smith and his team identified potential solutions using parts and supplies available and then produced a prototype for testing. That prototype was a filtration system.

C-5 filtration system The filtration system was created using a repurposed wheeled cart and has a set of two filters through which the air from the MC-7 cart passes. From there the now contaminant free air flows to the pressure gauge and finally to the aircraft. 

Smith filed paperwork to obtain official approval to use it on an aircraft in June 2015. After approval was received from the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, the system was validated and resulted in no smoke in the cockpit after the aircraft was released from ISO dock.