Utah legislators purchase $4.4 million in equipment for Hill AFB

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah (AFMCNS) -- The arrival of new equipment on base usually would not attract attention from state and local government officials. But then, Utah officials have a vested interest in this particular shipment.

Utah Sen. Sheldon L. Killpack (R-Syracuse), Rep. J. Stuart Adams (R-Layton) and Layton Mayor Jerry Stevenson visited the 309th Maintenance Wing at Hill Nov. 23 to see four lathes, purchased from money the state set aside for military installations in Utah.

"We think it's only fair to see what's happening with the money we've invested before going back to the legislature for additional funds," said Senator Killpack. "But from what we've seen today, I don't think that will be a problem."

The senator, along with Rep. Brad L. Dee (R-Ogden) sponsored the Military Installation Partnerships Bill, establishing a program to receive and distribute money for military projects that could significantly boost the state's economy.

Hill got $4.4 million of a $5 million gift. Efforts by the Utah Defense Alliance secured the lion's share of money for Hill. The UDA is a non-profit, volunteer organization that started in the 1990s to help keep Hill a viable military installation.

Initially, the UDA asked legislators for $15 million for expansion and development of military installations. The state agreed to $5 million. The UDA then met with state officials to determine which installations had the potential to add the most jobs thus, boosting the state's economy. Since the Ogden Air Logistics Center at Hill is one of only three Air Force depots in the nation, Hill rose to the top of the list, said Rick Mayfield, UDA executive director.

In October, the UDA received a check to buy about 15 items for Hill, including equipment to service aircraft secondary power systems and F-16 mission planning software development.

Because of the size of the gift, the Secretary of the Air Force had to formally accept it. Senator Killpack thinks Utah is the only state to donate such a gift to the military. "In fact, when we visited the Pentagon, they seemed perplexed," he said. "They are used to people asking for money, not handing it out."

All of the new equipment will go to the 309th Maintenance Wing. Currently with 7,500 employees, the 309th handles depot-level maintenance on F-16, A-10, and C-130 aircraft and the Minuteman missile. The wing also repairs, overhauls and maintains all types of landing gear, wheels, brakes and tires for Department of Defense aircraft.

"The majority of the maintenance technicians at Hill belong to the 309th," said Col. Art B. Cameron III, commander of the 309th wing. "We're the guys doing the hands-on depot maintenance."

Hill's senior leadership decided that the 309th had the capacity to install new equipment as well as hire new people, the colonel said.

Already one of the largest employers in the state, Hill will add nearly 200 positions starting next year. Nearly 75 percent of the jobs created are expected to come from work now contracted out, said Ross Marshall, 309th Maintenance Wing deputy commander.
About 85 percent of landing gear bushings and about half of the work done on secondary power systems -- such as repairing jet engine starters and gas turbines - is contracted out, Mr. Marshall explained.

The new lathes will allow the wing to manufacture bushings and do it "faster and cheaper," said Mr. Marshall. Hill paid more than $4.2 million in 2002 for bushings. Done in house, these items would have cost about $1.1 million less, according to Marc Pett, program analyst with the 309th commodities business office. He said the base could have saved nearly $800 thousand of the $3.1 million it paid for bushings in 2003.

"We realized that we were losing nearly $800,000 a year in this area and had already come up with a plan to purchase lathes in fiscal 2007. When the UDA approached us, we already had a plan in hand," Pett said.

A bushing is a removable cylindrical metal lining placed inside gears, struts, pivot points and "anywhere else where stress could occur," said Pett. Bushings prevent wear and tear on "base metal" by absorbing stress when the landing gear is raised, lowered, or supporting the weight of the aircraft. A bushing can be as flat and small as a dime or as high and wide as a 5-gallon trash can with sides up to 3/16 of an inch thick.

"Sometimes the contractor sends the wrong size (bushing), and we have to rework, resize, or replace it," said Pett. Not only does this slow down the landing gear repair process, but costs the wing money - up to $12,000 per day, said Pett. Generally, it takes five business days for bushings to be ordered, manufactured to specifications and delivered to Hill. With new lathes on site, the 309th can turnaround a bushing in less than 24 hours.

The wing also expects to save money by using less metal and recycling more scrap material. The new computerized lathes are so accurate they can cut metal slivers as thin as one-tenth the size of a human hair -- "that's one hair split into 10 equal parts," said Pett.