The 56th Component Maintenance Squadron’s Egress Systems Flight has partnered with Lockheed Martin to work on two innovative technologies that aim to enhance F-35A Lightning II egress maintenance training.
Working closely with Lockheed Martin, the egress shop implemented the Virtual Reality Maintenance Trainer and the use of a full-size 3D print of the F-35 canopy in an effort to reduce the time for training tasks by 50 percent.
The Egress Systems Flight ensures the overall integrity of the emergency ejection seat system in the F-35A Lightning II.
“Without the proper implementation and maintenance of this system, it could be the difference between life and death of the pilot,” said Master Sgt. Joseph Scalise, 56th Component Maintenance Squadron aircrew egress systems section chief. “We are the pilot’s last-ditch effort in the event of an aircraft malfunction or system failure.”
Training for various maintenance tasks for this field can be fairly time-consuming, and rather than using components that are needed for operational F-35s, the team created their own training aids to ensure maintainers have plenty of hands-on practice, Mr. Scalise said.
“Traditional teaching methods rely on a multi-style teaching structure; different styles such as visual, auditory, tactile and kinesthetic,” said Kris Velazquez, Lockheed Martin system engineer. “The virtual reality system offers the capability to simultaneously teach across all four learning styles, creating a big impact on training proficiency. With the VR system, a member can obtain the basic knowledge of the F-35 egress system in a few hours.”
While the VR Maintenance Trainer is effective, it is not intended to replace traditional hands-on egress training, Mr. Scalise said. It complements hands-on training by advancing and reinforcing that training, Mr. Velazquez said.
In addition to the virtual training system, Lockheed Martin and Luke AFB the 3D replica of F-35 canopy introduces training opportunities that were not previously available, Mr. Scalise said.
One area where this will make a significant difference with lengthy and precise training required on the installation of a flexible linear shaped charge. In an emergency situation that requires a pilot to eject from the aircraft, the FLSC is the component that destroys and separates the canopy from the rest of the jet so the pilot’s seat has a clear path to depart the aircraft.
“We often refer to the installation of the FLSC as an art rather than a skill,” Mr. Scalise said. “This is a 120-hour process that must be implemented with zero errors. Taking time to train on this task would drastically lengthen the aircraft downtime. With the new 3D replica, we now have 24-hour access to training on this essential task.”
Though these projects to advance training are new, Mr. Velazquez said he expects great promise for the future of the partnership.
“The feedback we received from the Air Force in the development of this technology was a hugely invaluable recourse for us,” Mr. Velasquez said. “You could tell they were energized to become more efficient. That type of culture definitely rubs off on us and really makes us want to better the Air Force as a whole. ”
With the success of these training projects in the pursuit for expansive innovation, the partnership between Luke’s Egress Systems Flight and Lockheed Martin could be a catalyst for future technological advancements, according to Michael Morreale, Lockheed Martin Luke F-35 chief of maintenance.
“I see that in the future, these training advancements have application, not just Air Force-wide, but throughout all of our partner nations in the F-35 consortium,” Mr. Morreale said. “You have to remember we work on aircraft and train pilots from all over the globe.”
While Luke’s partnership with Lockheed Martin is expanding innovation in F-35 training, it also represents more opportunities of a collaborative effort to enable the wing’s core mission: to train the world’s greatest fighter pilots and combat-ready airmen.
Editor’s note: Airman 1st Class Dominic Tyler is with the 56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs office at Luke Air Force Base.