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Making a Stand: 307th Bomb Wing maintainer designs solution for 30-year-old problem

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Ted Daigle and Staff Sgt. Kate Bragg
  • 307th Bomb Wing

When Tech. Sgt. Jermey Vickers sees a problem it’s hard to stop him from fixing it.

This combination of perseverance and innovation led the 307th Maintenance Squadron B-52 mechanic to design the Engine Pod Stand, used for the first time during a B-52 Stratofortress Phase maintenance inspection at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, on July 1st.

 “The maintenance stands we were using had been purchased in 1994, and you couldn’t get parts to fix them anymore,” said Vickers. “They also were purchased used, so it’s difficult to know how old they are.”

Maintaining stands was far from the only concern. There were issues of efficiency and safety, as well.

A B-52 Phase is a weeks-long inspection requiring dozens of maintainers to work on the jet simultaneously. Conventional maintenance stands only hold two people safely, so maintainers must constantly move them around to different parts of the huge airframe.

“Those stands were heavy and required a couple of people to move them, so there was a lot of potential for safety risks,” said Vickers.

The Engine Pod Stand is one large contiguous platform allowing maintainers to easily access the jet’s engines and wings, eliminating the need to move smaller stands.

It also provides enough room for several maintainers to use it at once without compromising safety for efficiency.

“With the old stands, it took over an hour to get ready just to work on an engine,” said Vickers. “With the Engine Pod Stand, we are ready to go in five minutes.”

Gaining that degree of safety and innovation did not come easily. Vickers had to couple his problem-solving mindset with some can-do grit to make the Engine Pod Stand a reality.

“I drew up the first blueprints six years ago and researched several companies that could make them,” said Vickers.

He began preliminary talks with one company but when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, this stopped the company’s production.

Vickers persisted through the pandemic and got the company to commit to the plans, but a lack of funding put the project on pause once again. 

He tried several avenues before finally working with the 307th Bomb Wing Safety Office and Air Force Reserve Command to get National Guard and Reserve Equipment Appropriations (NGREA) funding.

“He (Vickers) pushed for three years to get the funding, and he was extremely persistent and stayed the course,” said David Griffore, “307th Bomb Wing Occupational Safety supervisor. “When the stands arrived, he soloed on getting them assembled and operational.”

That persistence has paid off, but Vickers isn’t done yet.

He said he is still looking for ways to improve the existing design in case other Air Force units decide to use it. But for now, the current design is paying dividends just a few days into its first run.

“We’ve already halved the engine-top inspection time,” said Vickers. “So, our maintainers are loving it.”