USAFE innovator creates AF efficiency

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Natasha Stannard
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
 Each Air Force base selects one person to compete as their major command's nominee for the Air Force Exceptional Innovator of the Year Award.

According to Air Force Instruction 38-401 Air Force Innovative Development through Employee Awareness (IDEA) Program and the Department of Defense, the award recognizes the most outstanding Air Force individual innovator or group innovators who contributed to continual process improvement through the IDEA program. The program promotes process improvement and resource savings for the DoD. Military and civilian employees who submit ideas are illegible to win monetary awards.

Any Air Force employee who has submitted an approved idea through the program is eligible for the Exceptional Innovator of the Year Award.

"Every idea is important," said Tech. Sgt. Terrence Baptiste, 52nd Fighter Wing IDEA program manager. "It's important we acknowledge those people developing trends of innovation. They not only see the need, but they're doing something about it."

Mr. Jeffrey Hanson, 52nd Maintenance Group equipment specialist, was not only selected as the top innovator here, but also claimed the title at for U.S. Air Force's in Europe Nov. 15. As USAFE's top innovator, he is now eligible to compete for the U.S. Air Force Exceptional Innovator of the Year Award, which is announced in April.

For Spangdahlem AB's IDEA program manager, who was a part of the selection board to determine Spangdahlem's candidate, choosing Hanson was a no-brainer. Hanson submitted eight of the 26 approved innovations submitted here 2011.

"Besides the number of innovations he came up with, the impact from [his] innovations is grand," Baptiste said of Hanson's contributions. "They were immediate Air Force and Department of Defense level impacts."

To Hanson, his innovations were more than just an award, they were things he said everyone should do to make the entire Air Force better.

Hanson thought of ideas and innovations on the job. His 23 years of experience working on A-10 Thunderbolt IIs led him to notice maintenance instructions for the aircraft were missing, outdated or inaccurate. He noticed these discrepancies and annotated ways to fix or improve them so Airmen could do their job accurately, efficiently and safely.

"I accomplished technical orders for our aircraft and put in numerous changes through the Air Force technical order program," he said of how he improved the missing outdated or inaccurate instructions.

One of the technical orders he submitted concerned the installation of the A-10's engine fire loop. The engine fire loop is a detection device that informs the pilot when the engine has an external fire.

"[The previous instruction] had the wrong procedures for installing the fire loop, and the procedure was outdated for the last 25 years," he said. "I provided the correct procedure from a time compliance technical order to update the current instructions."

Along with correcting maintenance instructions for the A-10, he also came up with ways to improve the equipment mechanics and crew chiefs use to repair the A-10.

He searched for new webbing material used to make slings used by A-10 mechanics to lift large aircraft parts because during maintenance inspections technicians discovered the previous webbing used was unserviceable; however, the proper webbing was difficult to purchase overseas. Because the older webbing wasn't useable, the maintainers couldn't use different slings to lift critical aircraft parts.

Hanson found proper military specified webbing in the Air Force stock system, which is used on multiple items, and determined the webbing could be used to make the slings.

"The webbing on the slings was deteriorated and the replacement webbing was a local purchase no one could find because it wasn't made anymore," he said. "I had the specifications for [the proper] webbing and found a replacement in the Air Force stock system that exceeded specifications required."

According to his award submission package, Hanson obtained the webbing through an engineering data base, investigated for suitable substitutes, and researched if the webbing could be bought locally. He also discovered the same webbing specification could be used on four other types of slings which have different aircraft-part lifting capabilities. Once the webbing was sourced was sourced, Hanson contacted Warner Robins' engineering approval authority to discuss options, and they approved the substitute webbing.

"We can now put [the new] slings into service," Hanson said. "The maintainers can now order them through supply and receive [them] quickly, which keeps aircraft maintenance flowing and aircraft in the air."

Hanson said he will continue to submit technical orders to fix procedures and improve anything else he finds wrong, not to win awards, but to make jobs safer, more accurate and more efficient. He recommends all Airmen do the same.

"IDEA is a good program for the Airmen," he said. "Before, you would submit an idea and get no recognition for it. Now, you [submit one] and get paid for it."

To submit an idea to the IDEA program, visit or call the IDEA program manager at DSN 452-6112 or 06565-61-6112.