Wednesday, 28 May 2014

IF IT FLIES, CALIBRATE IT





The 2nd Maintenance Squadron’s Precision Measurement Equipment Laboratory (PMEL) at Barksdale Air Force Base in Bossier, Louisiana, calibrates and maintains an inventory of more than 6,700 pieces of equipment for Team Barksdale. With countless tools and test equipment used by ground crews every day, one shop is responsible for maintaining the standard of accuracy and calibration of the equipment.

By ensuring the most accurate tools and equipment at Barksdale, the PMEL streamlines workflow and saves the Air Force money by having one centralized location on base.

“Having the PMEL here saves everyone’s work center from having to ship equipment to a manufacturer or commercial lab,” says Ken West, PMEL site manager. “Otherwise, they'd have to ship their [equipment], pay that individual, and have it sent back. There would also be transportation costs.”

Although the PMEL is cutting costs for the Air Force, the lab wouldn’t be effective unless it kept track of thousands of pieces of equipment and paid careful attention to detail.

“Our mission is to ensure we have traceability for all the test equipment for any system or organization on base,” West says. “Traceability means that when something is measured at one inch, it’s exactly one inch. When you have things like aircraft parts, you have to make sure they're the right size to put them back together.”

The PMEL technicians have a two-week turnaround on every piece of equipment they're required to calibrate, but each technician’s workload differs, depending on the equipment and tools needed for calibration.

“Some items take only five minutes to calibrate,” West says. “We have other items that technicians may have to work on for three days. They'll spend 24 hours of work time on it because of the technical complexities of the instrument.”




The PMEL calibrations must be precise so that technicians can spot a difference in length to within a micrometer and notice length changes in metallic objects due to weather conditions. Although these changes are invisible to the naked eye, ground crews use tools every day that involve measurements of length, torque, voltage, and frequency. A discrepancy in measurement can cause severe problems.

“If the Identification Friend or Foe [IFF] signal malfunctioned, or if a jet’s electronic communications systems weren't performing accurately, a jet could possibly get shot down,” says Greg Earp, 2nd MXS PMEL technician. But there are other, more down-to earth applications as well. “At the commissary, if you paid for a pound of vegetables, you wouldn't want to receive less than what you paid for,” he says.

By providing a centralized location for calibration and quick turnaround, the PMEL maintains the standard for military precision.

Sources: U.S. Air Force - Air Force Global Strike Command.



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