100th MXG converts to virtual forms, saves valuable man-hours, money

  • Published
  • By Karen Abeyasekere
  • 100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

The 100th Maintenance Group recently became the first legacy unit in the Air Force to transition to full virtual forms for its aircraft and operations, removing the need for paper binders and saving dollars and resources.

Air Mobility Command implemented a policy in 2017 that all aircraft would transition from paper forms to a digital platform for documentation, explained Tech. Sgt. Michael Heasley, 100th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron flying crew chief manager, adding that U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa then set a goal for all aircraft forms to become digital within three to five years.

“At the time, all forms, documentation, maintenance actions and aircraft events were written on paper then later transcribed onto GO 81, which is our maintenance information system,” said Heasley. “Now the information is entered straight into the system using laptops.”

The switch to virtual forms has helped eliminate redundancy in their work center.

“Until recently, we were doing dual documentation with paper forms and digital; everything took twice as long,” he added. “The only caveat to being 100 percent digital now is Air Force Technical Order 781H, which provides a quick snapshot of the current status of each aircraft and shows whether or not it’s available to fly that day.”

Prior to the move to a digital platform, aircrew needed to bring binders and paper on flights, in addition to the technical orders stored on a laptop. Now, everything is consolidated on the laptop so maintainers and aircrew have immediate access to necessary documents.

“To store those documents, we needed extra filing cabinets. Now we’re able to store everything online and no longer need the printers, paper or ink that was required before, which results in enormous cost saving,” Heasley said.

One issue in the move to a digital platform was internet connectivity, but now WiFi pucks, operating off of cell phone data plans, and SIM cards have overcome limited internet connectivity on airfields and in austere locations.

“You need internet for the virtual forms to work,” explained Heasley, adding that not having it would defeat the purpose of being able to work on maintenance documentation out at the aircraft. “The benefit of having the puck is that we’re able to travel throughout all of Europe and have WiFi coverage. It’s because of this piece of equipment that we were able to set up Moron Air Force Base, Spain, to also go 100 percent virtual.”

As a flying crew chief manager, when aircraft go off station, it’s his responsibility to send maintainers to go with them, and having this new flexibility allows Heasley and other FCCs to complete their documentation wherever the aircraft goes.

“To put it into perspective, think about your phone – back in the day people had a landline telephone, calculator, camera and other devices; with these virtual forms on a laptop, we’ve scratched the surface of the potential of what we can do,” he said. “There’s going to be so many more things we’ll be able to incorporate inside those laptops to make our lives easier.”

Leadership within the 100th MXG understands the importance of going paperless and the benefits it brings.

“Virtual forms is something I’ve been hearing is on the horizon my entire career. There were many road blocks that have kept it from becoming a reality, from internet access to software challenges, to simply changing mindsets on how maintenance is documented,” said Maj. Danielle Sands, 100th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander. “It also allows documenting to take place at the job, while it’s fresh, instead of a chore waiting at the end of a shift.”

Working hand-in-hand using the virtual forms with the 100th MXG is the 100th Operations Group, as aircrew also play a big part in using them.

“The digital system allows us to coordinate efforts between aircrew, maintenance, and operations support agencies to streamline the traditional paperwork process,” explained Capt. Grant Starkweather, 351st Air Refueling Squadron assistant director of operations and KC-135 evaluator pilot. “This initial effort has cut down redundant paperwork by 66 percent and reduced the time burden on aircrew by half. Overall, the switch to virtual forms has generated more benefit for less effort and can easily be adopted by any operational flying unit.”

Digital filing allows larger amounts of data to be captured and for it to be shared in real-time between units and agencies.

“This truly is a game changer,” said Sands.