104th Fighter Wing Maintainers compete in 2020 National Guard Innovation Competition

  • Published
  • By By Airman 1st Class Sara Kolinski, 104th Public Affairs
  • 104th Fighter Wing

Master Sgt. Bob Oleksak, 104th Maintenance Group fabrication Element supervisor, and Master Sgt. Leo Burbee, 104th MXG structural maintenance supervisor, competed in the first National Guard Innovation Competition finals, June 12, 2020, at Barnes Air National Guard Base, Massachusetts. 

Burbee and Oleksak were one of four final teams out of over 100 presenting new technology to a panel of judges via a video teleconference due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Our proposal is a cold work aircraft panel repair technology that significantly saves time, material, and labor,” said Oleksak.

The new technology is meant to repair damaged and out-of-tolerance fastener holes that not only fixes panels and doors, but also helps strengthen them.

“I first heard about this repair process a Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex during
a conference,” said Burbee. “Then a few months later I visited the 125th Fighter Wing in Jacksonville and got some hands on training.”

Oleksak said that using the new technology would be relatively simple for a trained Aircraft Structural Maintenance technician, however there were other obstacles they had to overcome.

“The biggest hurdle for the ASM community in general is the lack of awareness of the capabilities this technology offers,” said Oleksak. “Many interested units have been frustrated by fiscal year budget challenges when trying to procure this kit, as it is not an item that can be easily ordered from the supply system.”

Although they didn’t win first place, Burbee and Oleksak will still be getting their idea funded by the National Guard Bureau. Both said they were excited to bring the idea to the judges and get the opportunity to help their career fields, the Air National Guard, and even the Air Force as a whole.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the efforts put forth by Master Sergeants Oleksak and Burbee regarding their work to get the panel repair kits funded for the F-15 community,” said Lt. Col. Pete Carr, 104MXG commander. “Not only does this process save the government money, more importantly, it reduces repair time, which increases aircraft availability and combat readiness. Additionally, this process can be used on other airframes as well, so this process will impact all service branches in the Department of Defense. This innovation initiative is a win-win for all concerned.”
With the cold work repair method, panels can be repaired in one hour compared to six using the legacy method, saving 130 man hours a year for a typical F-15 unit. The price of one kit is also equal to about 11 new panels with associated labor and material costs.

“It was an exciting ride throughout the escalating levels of competition, and we never thought we would get as far as we did,” said Oleksak. “The support from the wing, as well as our Communications Flight and Public Affairs team was outstanding, and we certainly could not have succeeded without their efforts. We would not hesitate to bring any other innovative ideas to this competition!”