354th MXS’ innovative canopy trailer mount enhances Arctic readiness

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jose Miguel T. Tamondong
  • 354th Fighter Wing / Public Affairs

Lockheed Martin provides bases with F-35A Lightning II standard trailers used to transport its canopies. However, in an arctic environment like Eielson, getting the trailer wheels stuck in snow is one of the many unique difficulties the 354th Maintenance Squadron Airmen face almost six months every year.

A collaboration between 354th MXS fabrications and accessories flights resulted in making the F-35 canopy transport trailers serviceable to ensure the 354th Fighter Wing’s F-35s are ready to go even at fifty below.

“The standard wheel set-up is what you would use on cement floors,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Matthew Romano, 354th MXS Aircrew Egress Systems craftsman. “Towing and pushing the trailer around in snow is terrible. It’s virtually impossible, especially out on the runway.”

Additionally, any modification to the unit shape or form is prohibited. This compelled Romano to seek out help from the fabrication flight.

“Staff Sgt. Romano came to me with a problem set,” said Tech. Sgt. Brian Kolk, 354th MXS aircraft metals technology noncommissioned officer in charge. “Figure out how to attach pneumatic tire axles to the original canopy transport trailer.”

Inspired by trailers used by Aerospace Ground Equipment and Ammo, paired with the convenience of having most of the material needed available in-house, it took a few days for the design to be created and solidified.

“One of the biggest hurdles we had was the actual axle system,” said Kolk. “We shopped and looked around. It would have cost the Air Force roughly $10,000 per axle, for the same type of axle sets that are on the standard configuration”

In search of a more affordable option, Kolk and Romano sought help beyond the confines of the base.

“We looked for a local vendor downtown that would be able to help us out for something a little more cheaper. They weren’t able to build the axle system for us but they’re able to supply us parts like the axle itself, axle hubs and tires,” Kolk said. “Once we were able to develop our own axles, we were able to build the trailer within roughly three days, negating all the wait times for the other parts coming in.”

The trailer adapter, serving as a mount, does not touch the equipment itself so it does not affect the trailer’s form, fit or function keeping it completely deployable. To convert a standard canopy transport trailer to its winter configuration, the adapter set can be unbolted and the casters replaced to its original spots.
However, this configuration was specifically designed for cold weather climates. In the event a partner nation would require one, it would have to be switched back to its original configuration which can take about an hour.

Using the trailer in standard configuration while the ground is enveloped in snow also presents a safety issue.

“I’m going to slip, fall and potentially hurt myself if I try to push this around the snow myself.” Romano said.

Not only does the new configuration prevent a safety hazard, it also protects the canopy itself. By introducing shock-absorbent tires, it solves a huge problem with pushing the trailers in standard configuration: vibrations.

“Being able to actually tow and push the trailer safely while protecting the canopy in this environment, is an amazing capability to have.” said Romano.