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Wearable computers move to flightline
Wearable computers move to flightline
ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- Tech. Sgt. Matt Jones uses a new wearable computer while inspecting an engine here. With the computers, maintainers will be able to identify, order, ship and pay for parts directly from the flightline. Sergeant Jones is the integrated electronic technical manual program manager. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tim Beckham)

by Senior Airman Tim Beckham
116th Air Control Wing Public Affairs


4/21/2004 - ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. (AFPN) -- Maintenance is about to change because of new tools maintainers will have at their disposal.

Through a pilot program at the 116th Air Control Wing here, 116th Maintenance Group workers are beginning to integrate a new wearable computer, which can be used across the maintenance spectrum.

The small personal computers can be worn either on the chest or hip and are being tested as a possible replacement for printed manuals currently used.

"With (the) integrated electronic technical manual, the flightline mechanic will have access to a wealth of information needed to perform (his or her) duties," said Tech. Sgt. Matt Jones, the electronic manual's project manager.

"Having these tools at the maintainers' fingertips is actually a virtual office on the flightline," said Col. Terry Kinney, 116th MXG commander. "It will have much of the same desktop software that we currently use, like e-mail capabilities and the capabilities to identify, order, ship and pay for parts directly from the flightline."

The computers will also have an electronic copy of technical orders, which maintainers use to perform their jobs. Not only will maintainers have their TOs at their disposal, but they will also be able to send video of damages back to the shop and aircraft engineers through a wireless network.

Computer users will be able to take a picture from the flightline and send it back to the subject matter expert, said Tech. Sgt. Paul Spalding, program manager.

"It provides a safer more unencumbered work environment by allowing the maintainer to have his TO at immediate disposal," Colonel Kinney said.

Officials from the 116th MXG are also looking at undergoing another pilot program that will incorporate using a unique-identification system, which may benchmark the way the Air Force controls parts inventory.

"Together they have the potential to change business on the flightline," Colonel Kinney said. "The capability to repair, order, ship and pay for parts on the ramp will significantly reduce the amount of time it currently takes to do the same business. A great spin off is it will reduce the need for human intervention and potential administrative errors."

The identification system is a Department of Defense-mandated program that goes into effect in 2005.

"Our vision for (the system) is to facilitate item tracking in DOD business systems and to provide reliable and accurate data for program management and accountability purposes in our engineering, acquisition, financial, property, plant and equipment accountability," said Michael Wynne, acting undersecretary of defense.

The Air Force-designated pilot program will try to "partner up" the new computer and the identification system to make life as easy as possible for the people working on the flightline, officials said.