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97 TRS students design solution for pilots

Students design KC-135 part.

From left, U.S. Air Force Airman Basic Sean Cao and Airman 1st Class Nathan Bredl, C-17 Globemaster III loadmaster students assigned to the 97th Training Squadron, and Master Sgt. Joseph Royer, a KC-135 Stratotanker boom operator instructor assigned to the 54th Air Refueling Squadron, test a circuit breaker handle prototype on a KC-135 July 21, 2020, at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma. The prototype is designed to pull three circuit breakers at the same time. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Breanna Klemm)

Students design KC-135 part.

From left, U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Nathan Bredl, a C-17 Globemaster III loadmaster student assigned to the 97th Training Squadron, and Master Sgt. Joseph Royer, a KC-135 Stratotanker boom operator instructor assigned to the 54th Air Refueling Squadron, look at circuit breaker handle prototypes July 21, 2020, at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma. Bredl helped design eight different handles before they created a prototype that worked properly. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dallin Wrye)

Students design KC-135 part.

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Joseph Royer, a KC-135 Stratotanker boom operator instructor assigned to the 54th Air Refueling Squadron, examines a circuit breaker handle prototype July 21, 2020, at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma. Royer brought up the idea for the prototype and explained the problem pilots were facing trying to pull three circuit breakers at the same time in emergency situations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dallin Wrye)

Students design KC-135 part.

U. S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Nathan Bredl, a C-17 Globemaster III loadmaster student assigned to the 97th Training Squadron, tests a circuit breaker handle prototype on a KC-135 Stratotanker July 21, 2020, at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma. Bredl helped design this handle at the 97th Air Mobility Wing Spark Cell. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Breanna Klemm)

Students design KC-135 part.

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Nathan Bredl, a C-17 Globemaster III loadmaster student assigned to the 97th Training Squadron, draws a design for a circuit breaker handle July 21, 2020, at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma. Bredl helped design eight different handles before they created a prototype that worked properly. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dallin Wrye)

Students design KC-135 part.

U.S. Air Force Airman Basic Sean Cao, a C-17 Globemaster III loadmaster student assigned to the 97th Training Squadron, stands in a KC-135 Stratotanker July 21, 2020, at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma. The handle can serve as a potential area of improvement on the aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Breanna Klemm)

ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --

Students assigned to the 97th Training Squadron successfully tested a new part for the KC-135 Stratotanker, July 21, 2020, at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma, after designing and creating it in the 97th Air Mobility Wing Spark Cell.

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Nathan Bredl and Airman Basic Sean Cao, C-17 Globemaster III loadmaster students at the 97th TRS, designed and 3D printed a circuit breaker handle to easily pull three circuit breaker buttons at once, saving time and effort for pilots in emergency situations.

Master Sgt. Joseph Royer, a KC-135 boom operator instructor, originally brought up the idea for the part after individually identifying a potential area of improvement on the aircraft.

“In an emergency situation, there are multiple procedures or actions you can take to help dissolve the problem,” said Royer. “One of those procedures is for the pilot to pull three specific circuit breakers behind their seat. Through my independent research I have learned that this can take anywhere from three to twenty seconds. I wanted to design something that would allow pilots to pull the correct three circuit breakers faster so they can focus on the mission.”

After identifying the problem, Bredl and Cao began to brainstorm a possible prototype for the new handle. Bredl and Cao spent more than a week in the Spark Cell lab designing a prototype that would properly solve the problem.

“A lot of changes were made to the original prototype before we found one that worked,” said Bredl. “At first we went through a clamping design that immediately did not work. We then created a handle that you could pull, but then decided it was too long. We then had to focus on finding a sturdiness and thickness that would be strong enough to pull all three breakers at a time.”

Bredl and Cao designed eight different handles before they created a prototype that worked properly. Cao explained how creating the handle was a large trial and error process, but their work proves Airmen can do anything they put their mind to.

“By making something like this handle, it shows that anyone can help,” said Cao. “Bredl and I have not even flown on a military aircraft yet, and to design a product for something we've never seen or know very little about, shows that anything is possible.”

Royer explains how he is grateful for the opportunity to utilize the 3D printers, equipment and models at the Spark Cell with the initiative of Airmen to develop creative solutions locally.

“I think making products like this handle shows that we are supporting innovation by allowing our student Airmen the opportunity to use equipment such as this while in training,” said Royer. “It shows students and instructors here that are flying on a nearly 60 year old aircraft that there are still things we can do to make improvements.”

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