Success Here equals Success There: Meticulous task ensures global F-15 missions accomplished

  • Published
  • By Jenny Gordon
  • Robins Public Affairs
"It's like an octopus eating a bowl of spaghetti."

So goes the saying in the 561st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron's Rewire Flight, whose mission is to remove and replace every single piece of wire inside an F-15. 

It's a meticulous task no doubt, but when that fighter aircraft flies away from the Robins flight line toward home, a successful mission here means another F-15 is available for deployment somewhere in the world. 

Every single line of wire inside an F-15 has a purpose. Without them, the aircraft can't fly, its instruments can't be controlled during flight, it can't land and pilots can't complete their crucial missions. 

If you were to measure how many wires are inside one and lay them end-to-end, it would equal to about 27 miles. If that doesn't sound like a lot, it's a little over the distance you'd travel on Watson Boulevard from the Robins front gate to the I-75 bridge - three times.

You can't see each individual wire because they're tightly bundled inside various sizes of wiring harnesses. 

In turn, these harnesses are painstakingly connected piece by piece from the back end of the aircraft all the way to the cockpit, where most of the wires reside for various computer systems. 

When those wires are removed from inside an aircraft, while the harnesses may resemble a fusion of spaghetti noodles all tangled together inside a boxed crate, it's anything but when new wires are assembled in their place.  

Just steps from functional test where maintainers repair any remaining issues after a pilot takes the plane up for final testing, the squadron's rewire shop dedicates six spots for F-15 rewire work. 

The entire process - which averages 6,000 hours - takes 49 days, and includes F-15 C and D models only. 

As part of the wiring modification and programmed depot maintenance in Gate 2, the process is further divided into three subgroups for wire removal, wire integrity testing and buildup.

Before an F-15 gets to the rewire shop, equipment inside has already been removed so its wires are accessible. 

Large yellow platforms near each aircraft allow nearly 140 mechanics to get to any surface they need. A total of 13 electricians can be working at any given time on a single aircraft.

Mark Erwin, an aviation electrician, spends most days inside an F-15C model cockpit, one of the aircraft's more difficult and tight spaces for rewire work. 

His progress in this area is critical as well, since just about every wire in some form passes through his hands. 

It's a big deal since an F-15 rewire project can include as many as 15,000 different connection points

"By now this work is very routine for me," said Erwin, a former C-130 mechanic. "I could do it in my sleep. 

"You have to put the wiring harnesses in just right for them to clamp," he added. "As you can tell, there's not a lot of room in here." 

Eric Underwood, a 561st AMXS supervisor, agreed.

"If you're claustrophobic, it's not a good job for you," he said.

Derrick Corbin, another aircraft mechanic, spends his shift, for 35 work days, standing upright inside the aircraft's central environmental cooling system - the most tightly-confined space of all. 

The ECS pumps hot or cold air into the cockpit that not only keeps the pilot comfortable, but regulates temperatures for the aircraft's computers. 

Since this particular workload began at Robins in 2009, continuous process improvements have continued to drive the number of flow days down. 

In the beginning that number stood between 60 and 70 days. It's been further reduced to the current 49. 

By implementing Art of the Possible theories, identifying and eliminating constraints in the production process and standardizing those processes, several areas were improved. 

Most notably, incoming evaluations and inspections were conducted much earlier once an F-15 arrived at Robins. Parts ordering this early in the process worked well so they were ready by the time an aircraft entered the hangar.   

By continuously coming up with processes that are standard and repeatable for every aircraft, the flight and the squadron overall is looking ahead to what possibilities may come. 

"If we increase quality and stay on the critical path, aircraft will flow smoothly," said David Pryor, 561st AMXS supervisor.