RAF MILDENHALL, England -- The drive to save money and maintenance hours began at the nose of a KC-135 Stratotanker.
Airmen working on the refueler aircraft, which have been in the Air Force's fleet for decades, used to have their own individual order for checking components for safety.
The 100th Air Refueling Wing systemized a front-to-back approach, which along with other innovations shaved 192,520 work hours off maintenance time, which in turn saved the wing about $913,000 in a year.
The new approach, which is expected to be adopted by other Air Force KC-135 crews, earned the 100th ARW first place in the fourth annual U.S. Air Forces in Europe--Air Forces Africa Innovation Madness contest earlier this month.
The Bloody Hundredth is now deciding how to spend its $150,000 grand prize.
"It means more than just time and money saved. It speaks to the culture that lives through our airmen within the wing," said wing commander Col. Christopher Amrhein.
Developing the new plan involved rearranging more than 1,000 aircraft inspection cards into an organized flow, said Tech. Sgt. Joshua Arrington, quality assurance inspector with the 100th Maintenance Group.
"We start at the nose of the aircraft and work our way in a solid flow around the aircraft, greatly reducing the number of items that are missed," Arrington said. "Before everyone had their own methods of inspecting the aircraft because they were jumping around so much, but now everyone has the same method every time."
Another idea generated at Mildenhall means that flight plans will be transferred more reliably.
Michael Norwood, a civilian with the 100th Operations Support Squadron, and his team replaced outdated PCMCIA cards with a custom USB adapter.
A PCMCIA card is slightly bigger than a credit card, with a 68-pin connector that plugs into a computer. The new USB adapter is much easier to connect and allows for four times as much data.
With the cards, "you run the risk of putting it in upside down and damaging it," Norwood said. "If you damage it then the aircraft is down and you have issues. Reliability is the biggest thing and then capacity."
Innovation Madness was created in 2015. Participating wings with Europe and Africa missions compete in three separate rounds to win a portion of $250,000.
"Innovation strengthens the ability of our Air Force to reduce cost, save time, and maintain our technological edge," 3rd Air Force commander, Lt. Gen. Richard Clark, said in a statement for this year's competition. "The most creative ideas come from our warriors."