News Article View

31 MXS innovates and cuts production time with Tent N Vent process

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Brooke Moeder
  • 31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

When dealing with a challenge, some find it easy to give in or buckle under the pressure that’s coming their way. Airmen assigned to the 31st Maintenance Squadron, aircraft structural maintenance section faced a challenge head-on and innovated a solution through the ‘Tent N Vent’ procedure.

U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons at Aviano are required to maintain coating of FMS 3600 paint, a radar absorbent material that enables the aircraft to be stealthier. Since Aviano’s Paint Barn has been unoperational since 2018, if any aircraft part requires painting, the whole aircraft must be sent to SABCA, a Belgian aerospace company.

In an effort to remain mission ready, aircraft aren’t sent if just one panel needs to be painted. As panels were replaced on the F-16, they were never painted properly with FMS-3600. This resulted in all of the aircraft having to be flown with Partly Mission Capable status due to an inability to maintain the aircrafts’ radar cross section.

“The tasking order for spraying paint on aircraft states that any panel bigger than nine square inches has to be sprayed,” said Keeney. “Anything smaller than that, we can do TO-approved touch up repairs by brushing it or rolling it.”

Since some aircraft panels are bigger than nine square inches, ASM Airmen were required to spray the part, but without an operational Paint Barn a solution was needed.

To combat the challenge, two innovators, Master Sgt. Jacob Moniz, 31st MXS ASM assistant section chief and U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Cameron Keeney, 31st MXS ASM craftsman, reconfigured the current mobile paint equipment Tent N Vent system to accommodate the new FMS-3600 coating.

The Tent N Vent is a portable facility used to spray paint on aircraft parts and contains a three-stage filter method to filter the air as it comes out. At 16x5 feet long, airflow is used to create a vacuum in the plastic.

“We can set up a Tent N Vent in the hangar or on the pads,” said Moniz. “That's the functionality that they bring, they are portable facilities. It allows us to do the majority of our spraying outside.”

Eleven aircraft parts have already been painted with the FMS-3600 coating using the Tent N Vent. The Tent N Vent cuts down production time and allows the aircraft part to be painted at Aviano, negating the need to send it to Belgium, said Moniz. Approximately 2,700 production hours were saved with the Tent N Vent.

“A lot that goes into the spraying process is making the aircraft mission capable,” said Moniz. “Instead of losing an aircraft for however many weeks, we can now get aircraft fully mission capable in a week.”

While the Tent N Vent process has been in use since 2018, Keeney helped reconfigure the process and fine-tune tactics and procedures.

Throughout the entire process of painting the aircraft, ASM personnel wear protective equipment to prevent chemicals from entering their body including respirators, tie backs [white suit worn to protect every inch of skin], gas masks and gloves.

Aside from paint jobs on aircraft, ASM Airmen also receive various equipment parts from outside agencies that require recoating or reworking of the protective coating, such as aerospace ground equipment, phase panels, and toolboxes for squadrons. Their variety of services helps advance the U.S. Air Force’s mission to fly, fight and win.

“Without the protective coatings, metal can fail, crack and deteriorate to the point where the aircraft or machinery cannot be used and then have to be replaced, which would then cause more man-hours for every single agency on base,” said Keeney.