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Airman’s innovation sparks excitement for Raptors

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  • By 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs
  • 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

As the Air Force faces continued fiscal constraints the need for Airmen to be innovative in identifying and solving mission shortfalls keeps growing.

For the 1st Fighter Wing Innovation Cell at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, adopting U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Daniel Caban’s new concept for F-22 Raptor intake covers came as an improvement to standing a maintenance practice.

Caban, a 1st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, created Portable Magnetic Aircraft Covers, also known as PMAC, made of polymagnets and Nomex IIIA fibers, which can be folded and packed into a small compartment on the aircraft. The new design eliminates the need for the current Dash 21 gear, which requires separate shipping to the aircraft’s predisposed location due to thier size. 

Caban, who studied drafting in college, explained he chose these materials to construct PMAC because of Nomex IIIA’s electrostatic and hydrophobic properties, which allows the material to breathe while withstanding water. 

The specialized magnets adhere to rigid structures without interrupting sensitive electronic components nearby, and mitigates damage due to wear on the jet’s coating.

“The hopes for my concept is to minimize the need for Dash 21 movement since we have these new protective covers available any time,” Caban said. “(PMAC) will help execute the mission as they require less to maintain, so we’re designing the new ones with better material that will last longer, and protect against the elements a lot better.”

The current Dash 21 sets are made up of foam pads, which measure at 13.1 cubic feet and cost $11,000 each. Each jet requires three Dash 21 sets to ensure the intakes and sensitive openings are protected at each location the pilot lands during missions. 

Caban’s new design is slated to have a production cost that amounts to less than half of Dash 21 gear production cost, and measures at 567 cubic inches. 

The compact size could prove to be advantageous and cost effective in terms of shipping since the set will travel with the jet, allowing aircraft maintainers at various locations to apply the covers anytime they are needed.

“This idea really has the potential to revolutionize the way we do things,” said Maj. Brian Pascuzzi, 1st Fighter Wing Plans and Programs chief of wing plans. “When you look at the deployment costs and the readiness enhancement that’s possible with this idea, that’s really where you get the bang for your buck as far as PMAC goes. 

This is really what the innovation cell is all about: finding ways to sharpen lethality and enhance readiness to get the mission done in a more innovative way.”

Pascuzzi also serves as the 1FW innovation chief since the cell’s established in March of this year and credits Caban as being one of the first ideas presented during a pitch session where Airmen exhibited their ideas to the innovation board, which includes the wing commander, the maintenance group commander and other senior leaders. 

“There was immediately a lot of buzz and a lot of excitement after [Caban] presented his idea,” Pascuzzi said. “He came into the room carrying a large duffle bag containing a full set of Dash 21 gear, and contrasted its size by displaying his functioning prototype next to it. Peoples’ eyes kind of went wide like ‘Wow!’”

Since the initial presentation, Pascuzzi and other innovation cell members have worked closely with Caban to create an innovative pathway that has led him to the first phase of production, where he partnered with a local Hampton Roads business to produce a PMAC prototype made at no cost to the unit. 

Fighter wing leaders and innovation cell members are discussing PMAC’s potential impact on all aircraft. 

“Right now we’re talking about cost savings for all F-22 (Raptors), but we’re also looking at applicability to other aircraft not only in the Air Force inventory, but possibly DoD-wide,” Pascuzzi continued. “I wouldn’t be surprised if in a few years you go on vacation and you see commercial airlines using portable magnetic covers.”

According to Pascuzzi, 1 FW leaders are thrilled to support their Airmen and the potential in Caban’s creation has them looking forward to hearing about innovative ideas from all JBLE members.

“I hope that other Airmen are inspired when they see [Caban’s] success with his concept in such a short amount of time,” Pascuzzi added. “We know innovative ideas are out there, and we need our [service members] to know that we are here to guide them down that creative path.”

Caban and innovation cell leaders are hopeful that PMAC will be selected as a finalist for the 2020 Spark Tank Competition during Air Force Association conference in Orlando, Florida.