10/20/04 — Airman saves Air Force money and gets rewarded

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Airman saves Air Force money and gets rewarded

By Sam Atkins
Published in News on October 20, 2004 2:02 PM

Two ideas have saved the Air Force around $2.7 million and put $18,000 in the pocket of an innovative airman at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

Tech. Sgt. Mark Kobayashi, a technician with the 4th Maintenance Group, saved the Air Force money after he figured out he could repair two units on the F-15E Strike Eagle instead of sending them to Robins Air Force Base, Ga., to be fixed.

The first item is a multi-purpose display unit, which is at the front and back of the F-15E. It displays a map so the pilot and weapon systems officer know what they are dealing with.

It is like an OnStar system on an automobile, he said. There are four of these units on each jet and if any of them malfunction, the jet must come down and be repaired before it can go back up, he added.

Last year, Kobayashi would send the unit to Robins Air Force Base, where more extensive maintenance is done, and it would cost the 4th Fighter Wing around $55,000 in exchange cost. It would take Robins about a month to repair the unit.

The 4th Fighter Wing leadership gathered information on what the failure rates were on the different units and how many were being sent to Robins. They decided the units had to be fixed quicker so the jets could get back in the air.

Kobayashi said the problem with the unit is usually in the wiring. He used his skills to fix the unit and it only cost $12 for a new connector. He fixed nine of them last year for a total cost of around $108. It would have cost around $495,000 for all nine units to be serviced at Robins. He can change the connector in two hours and the unit will be back on the jet within 24 hours.

Another item called a HUD, or Heads Up Display, is a monitor in the jet's front cockpit and is primarily used for target acquisition. It is another critical piece of equipment that must be working when the jet is flown, he said. Wiring problems can also come about in this unit. Kobayashi fixed nine of the units last year for an average cost of $64 each. Sending those to Robins would have cost around $240,000 each. This saved the Air Force around $2.2 million.

Kobayashi said his maintenance shop has limited capabilities and can only fix the units if there is a problem with the wiring or something minor. They send the units to Robins if there is any major problem. Eight times out of 10 the problem has something to do with the wiring, he added.

He said all he needs is the technical data to fix the malfunction and gets that information and permission to fix the units from Robins.

He received compensation for his work through the Air Force program called IDEA, Innovative Development through Employee Awareness. If a person is able to save the Air Force $68,000 or more, they automatically receive $10,000. If they save any amount less than $68,000, they get 15 percent of the amount saved. This money is based one repair per unit.

Once he figured out he could fix the units locally, he submitted a form electronically in November providing details of what the problem was, how much he could save the Air Force, and what he planned to do to fix the problem.

Kobayashi double-checked the figures and made sure that no one else had the same idea. He then sent the form to the IDEA office, where they checked the numbers, and then it was sent to Air Combat Command. After ACC evaluated it, it was approved in July and he received a check Thursday for $18,200 -- $10,000 for the HUD and $8,200 for the multi-purpose display unit.

He was pretty confident that his work would be approved, but had to do a lot of fact checking before he submitted the form to the IDEA office.

"We wanted to make sure our information was correct," he said.

Kobayashi plans on investing the money.

"Usually monetary awards motivate people to submit ideas or participate in the program, which ultimately saves the taxpayers and the Air Force money," he added.