6th MXG implements idea, improves warfighting effectiveness

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Scott Warner
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

During MacDill’s inaugural Fuel Tank competition last June, 6th Air Mobility Wing Airmen presented innovative ideas to wing leadership for the chance to receive squadron innovation funds that would turn ideas to reality.

Senior Airman John Cuttito, a 6th Maintenance Squadron hydraulics systems journeyman, was deployed overseas during the event, but that didn’t stop him from sharing his idea.

“As a car mechanic, we used thermal imaging cameras to immediately identify faulty parts on any motor vehicle; I thought this technology would benefit KC-135 maintenance, too,” said Cuttito, who spent 10 years as a car mechanic in St. Cloud, Florida. “In the past, we relied on trial and error to locate which aircraft part wasn’t working and that’s how I knew there was a better way.”

Cuttito explained the versatility of thermal imaging cameras and how they can detect electrical and mechanical equipment, even in the dark. The cameras translate heat into visible light and can pinpoint variation in any of the aircraft parts.

“Thermal imaging helps us locate faults in wiring and pneumatic ducts or valves,” said Staff Sgt. James Morin, a 6th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron electrical and environmental systems craftsman. “Thermal imaging allows us to quickly identify faulty components using thermal variation without tearing the system apart.”

Infrared technology has a wide range of application and in several maintenance career fields, it can be used to expedite inspections, impacting cost-effectiveness, efficiency and combat readiness.

“These type of cameras are invaluable when troubleshooting issues that correlate with pressure and heat,” said Cuttito. “Understanding which line or system should be cool, warm, or hot is key and if checks are made when the system is operating normally, a reference can be established to indicate if a part varying from its normal heat signature, which would be a clear problem.”

According to Cuttito, a thermal imaging camera is unequivocally resourceful as a tool when conducting reliability tests on a hydraulic system and during the Fuel Tank presentation, 6th AMW leadership authorized its implementation with a $42,000 budget to purchase and provide training for the thermal imaging camera.

“We expect this to transform the way we troubleshoot problems on our aircraft,” said Capt. Felix Carrillo, the 6th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron’s red aircraft maintenance unit officer in charge. “We have only had the camera since December 2018, but the feedback so far has been promising.”

To effectively operate the thermal imaging camera, five 6th Maintenance Group Airmen received thermographic certification from the camera's manufacturer. 

“MacDill is the first base that I know of to use this technology in this way,” said Carrillo.

Now that the thermal imaging camera is being used operationally, it proves that innovation does not have to remain in the idea status, it can become reality at MacDill.

“Our Airmen continually impress me,” said Carrillo. “Whether it’s through raising the idea of a thermal imaging camera or pointing out that our engine stands could be better, these are just some of the many innovative ways our Airmen continue to improve our efficiency and warfighting capabilities.”

Airmen have the opportunity to share their innovative ideas to improve warfighting efficiency during the second annual Fuel Tank, scheduled for March 14, 2019. Anyone interested is encouraged to contact the 6th AMW commander’s action group at 813-828-0039 or email 6AMW.CAG.CCActionGroup@us.af.mil to find out more.