DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
Tires are one of the most important and most often overlooked components of a vehicle. For Airmen assigned to the 7th Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle maintenance flight at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, seeing flightline tow tractors, also known as bobtails, come in nearly every three months for new tires was normal.
In Nov. 2016, 7th LRS Airmen and Arrow Ford technicians teamed up to find a solution for the premature front tire wear. This solution would save the time and money for the replacement of tire that cost $500 per set and solve a problem that has been plaguing vehicle maintainers for more than a decade.
“When I was a second lieutenant, this was presented to me as an unsolvable problem. It has been inspiring seeing this team invent an answer,” said Lt. Col. Jerry Ottinger, 7th LRS commander.
Drawing on the expertise of all team members produced a solution that will repair the tire alignment and extend tire life on the bobtails which is now a patented modification.
“You cannot find a partnership like this anywhere else,” said Senior Master Sgt. Eric Kuhns, 7th LRS vehicle maintenance flight chief. “It’s phenomenal how this community supports the military.”
With multiple bases across the Air Force submitting deficiency reports to Air Force Material Command’s Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Robins AFB, engineers and an equipment specialist came to Dyess to inspect the bobtails new twin I-beam modification on June 14.
“The Dyess Vehicle Maintenance team gathered data from Air Force installations across the globe and researched potential fixes, then worked with Arrow Ford and solved a problem that has plagued vehicle maintainers in the Air Force and industry-wide for a decade,” Ottinger said.
The new modification can align the tires properly with the new I-beam, which will fit 1999 to present F-350 chassis. There is no modification needed for the vehicles except for the replacement twin I-beams that meet or exceed Original Equipment Manufacturer standards.
The design maintains the OEM truck suspension configuration, which means little to no maintenance issues will surface after the modification. It will also resolve the front tire wear issue associated with all bobtail vehicles and the modification has the potential to save money for civilian airlines and other businesses that may use bobtails.
The previous design modified the rear chassis suspension, axle and wheels which are detached as an assembly, repositioned forward, reattached using OEM and the frame rails shortened. Due to the shortened wheel base, the caster and camber could not properly align the tires. Thus, accelerating the wear of the front tires.
“It was inspiring to see the Vehicle Maintenance team not settle with the status quo,” said Col. Kevin Johnson, 7th Mission Support Group commander. “With the generous support of Arrow Ford, they partnered together to tackle this longstanding problem. This once again proves that the person closest to the problem is the one best suited to solve it.”
The Air Force has approximately 2,700 bobtails supporting flightline operations which can tow both trailers and aircraft up to 70,000 pounds. If the new design is approved, there is an estimated annual savings of $544,000 in tire replacements and about 2,200 man hours for vehicle repairs.
“The maintainers here at Dyess have taken the initiative to find local talent who identified the root cause of this problem,” said Rob Woodruff, mechanical engineer, Air Force Lifecycle Management Center at Robins AFB. “They addressed that cause and created a cost-effective solution for the issue which was essentially done at no cost to the government.”
If the repairs are approved, the modifications will be coordinated with Air Force Material Command Nuclear Weapons Center for certification, with a possibility of having the new parts and modifications done Air Force wide within three to six months.
“This project drove a personal paradigm shift for me. It truly proves that when people challenge the status quo, great things happen,” said Ottinger.