Hill Air Force Base — Sometimes there are things outside the scope of one’s duties that could, and probably should be addressed, but often times those ancillary items aren’t squared away — rarely though, do those things hold a $125 million price tag. Staff Sgt. Ken Reber, a crew chief with the 388th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, did just that — he identified a missing outer lock ring while inspecting a main landing gear tire on an F-16 Fighting Falcon, an item not specifically called out in his technical data to be inspected. Without the ring, the wheel has the potential to separate. “Staff Sergeant Reber’s attention to detail and technical ability averted potential tire failure on landing, preventing the loss of five combat aircraft valued at $125 million,” said Maj. Jason Moore, commander of the 388th AMXS. After his discovery, Reber immediately inspected all available tires on the tech support section tire rack and discovered four more tires were also missing the outer lock ring.
His immediate supervisor, 388th AMXS aircraft section chief Master Sergeant Todd Cate, said top-notch Airmen like Reber set the standard for the unit. “It raised a lot of awareness for that part – sometimes wheel and tire is taken for granted when we get them, because they have already been deemed serviceable,” said Cate. “He went a step above what was required of him and noticed the lock ring was missing, and then he found several others.” Reber said a check called an in-progress inspection occurs before the wheels go on the aircraft.
“That particular ring is what locks the wheel in place, so if the aircraft would have landed n it, it would have split the wheel on the runway,” Reber said. “I was just the first one to catch it, I’m sure one of my maintenance brethren would have caught this if they had the chance to see it first.” Due to his safety prowess and unparalleled technical expertise in aircraft maintenance, Reber earned the August 2014 safety award for the 388th Fighter Wing.