JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. -- Air Combat Command announced their two 2020 Spark Tank finalists moving on to compete in the finals in Washington, D.C.
The finalists competed against four other teams of contestants from a multitude of career fields and experience levels. They will move on to the finals at AFWERX, where they’ll compete against winners from other major commands at the Air Force level. From there, the judge’s panel will choose six finalists from a pool of more than 20 semi-finalists--two from each MAJCOM, plus two AFWERX wildcards.
Airman 1st Class Brett Geisler, a 9th Maintenance Squadron electrical and environmental journeyman from Beale Air Force Base, California, pitched an idea to Spark Tank judges for a latch-seal track case. In simple terms, the latch-seal track case is an assembly Geisler crafted with computer-aided drafting at home.
Geisler’s idea is projected prevent failures during operational inspections of aircraft canopies and save thousands of dollars and cut man-hours on the flightline by 26%.
“It feels great,” Geisler said. “It feels like I actually put my name out there and accomplished something. I was really hyped to see all of the other ideas because they were awesome.”
Geisler also described how enthusiastic his fellow Airmen will be when they see his idea come to fruition.
“They’re definitely going to be happy,” Geisler said. “My coworkers were excited about my idea before I even entered into this competition.
“They hated redundant maintenance actions just as much as I did,” he continued. “At the end of the day, it’s more promising to see that our parts are going to be in a secure location.”
The second finalist, Tech. Sgt. Daniel Caban, a 1st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron F-22 Raptor crew chief from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, articulated an idea to the judge’s panel for portable magnetic aircraft covers, or PMAC. Caban spawned his idea from intrinsic motivation to help pilots bring their aircraft covers with them in flight to use during arrival to deployments and temporary duty assignments. Due to the sheer size and bulkiness of the aircraft covers, Caban sought to increase the F-22’s mobility.
“It feels good to see my product move forward and come to life,” Caban said.
Not only does Caban’s idea increase F-22 readiness, but PMAC can be used on any fighter aircraft on the Air Force’s inventory. Caban’s idea is projected to cut individual costs of aircraft covers by more than 50%. It will also eliminate the unit cost of aircraft cover transport because fighter pilots will be able to bring PMAC with them in flight.
Caban’s leadership also showed how proud they were of the Spark Tank results.
“Caban is known to be an innovator,” said 1st Lt. Marlene Myers, 1st Fighter Wing aircraft maintenance officer. “He has a lot of great ideas and we’re just really excited for him to be able to showcase PMAC. I think he’s inspired younger Airmen to come forward with good ideas that they have.”
Air Force senior leaders and AFWERX created the competition to spur innovative ideas for operational implementation worldwide. Spark Tank also identifies opportunities for Airmen at all levels to save time and money, maintain readiness, increase lethality and ensure cost-effective modernization across the service.
The annual Spark Tank competition empowers Airmen to constantly examine functions and missions, as outlined in the ACC Strategic Plan. In terms of forward-thinking, this ensures Airmen foster a culture of process-improvement within their units and work centers.
“We’re looking forward to make things better all the time,” said Chief Master Sgt. Jason P. Colón, 386th Air Expeditionary Wing command chief master sergeant, Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait. “Evaluate. Re-evaluate. Never maintain that status quo.”
By driving Airmen to examine capabilities and identify areas for improvement, Spark Tank competitions help the Air Force streamline processes to enhance lethality, readiness and air superiority.
“I think the risk is in not considering those ideas because nobody has a monopoly at any echelon on good ideas,” said Col. Brian J. Tyler, Commander of the 70th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing, Fort George G. Meade, Maryland. “To the extent we create experts within our fields, those are the Airmen who are closest to the problem. Those are also the ones who are probably most in tune with providing solutions that are feasible.”
Gen. Mike Holmes, commander of ACC, thanked the semi-finalists for developing and submitting their ideas up the chain.
“We’re really proud of you for putting your brain power to work and for having the confidence to come forward and bring a suggestion to us,” Holmes said. “Supervisors and commanders were willing to listen to suggestions, help shape them and bring them forward.”
Overall, AFWERX judges and Air Force senior leaders make their selections based on which projects have the highest probability of delivering a game-changing impact to the Air Force within six months to two years. Some of the criteria Spark Tank judge’s panels are looking for include: potential for impact, solution feasibility, and the ability for contestants to articulate a path forward.
The six Air Force-level winners will then move on to the final round early next year at the Air Force Association Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Florida, where Airmen will not only present to Air Force senior leaders but also industry experts and famous investors from the CBS TV show “Shark Tank.”