More than a career, passion for innovation

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A grinning Tech Sgt. Eric Kozma emerges from behind a noisy workstation covered in metal shavings that glimmer in the fluorescent lights of his shop. He stops to talk to his Airmen, excited about a new idea for the project on which they are collaborating.

Kozma is the 92nd Maintenance Squadron metal technology noncommissioned officer in charge. His passion for innovation drives him to find ways to extend the KC-135 Stratotanker lifespan and ability to conduct its air refueling mission.

“We are meant to either get the aircraft back in the air or temporarily build the part until supply can get a contract to supply it,” he said.

In 2020, Airmen assigned to the 92nd AMXS discovered a cracked jackscrew mounting bracket on a KC-135 Stratotanker during an inspection. Replacing the bracket became a challenge since its reproduction was discontinued in 1982.

The only available blueprints for this specific bracket were from 1954, and it used an outdated magnesium casting process. Despite having no updated information or references, Kozma designed and built the part in house while saving the Air Force money.

“A jackscrew cost $18,000 and we made it for $2,000,” said Kozma. “We are the only shop that can create this part in the Air Force.”

Kozma explained that metal technicians use innovation and problem-solving skills to fix parts so the KC-135 Stratotankers can continue their mission.

“We use Computer Numerical Control machines to create the parts,” said Kozma. “When we create the programs, we need to be extremely precise because up to a hair off in measurement can make a part unusable.”

Over a dozen years in the Air Force and the metal technician career field have sparked a passion in Kozma for creating with metal. With each passing year, he pushes the boundaries of what innovation means.

“I have my own welding shop and forge at my house,” said Kozma. “When I go home, I research things for work. Work is my passion project. Each day that I’m out on the floor, either welding or machining, I’m having fun.”

His passion for innovation inspired Kozma to begin another project focused on the process of gathering fuel samples from the KC-135.

“The current method can lock the port where samples are taken open and cause a fuel spill,” he explained. “The design that I have created will only open the port enough to allow a sample and can have sections added to extend the reach.”

This project will improve safety for Airmen on the flight line, allowing them to get a fuel sample without climbing a ladder and reducing the risk of fuel spills. This will also make the process of collecting the fuel sample faster and more efficient, according to Kozma.

Fairchild promotes a culture of innovation and empowers Airmen like Kozma to make strides towards advancing warfighting capabilities and ensuring the success of the Rapid Global Mobility mission.