Platform for KC-135 Boom Instructors Proposal Takes Spark Tank Cup

MSgt. Bartek Bachleda, second from left, 22nd Air Refueling Wing, McConnell AFB, Kansas, holds up the Spark Tank trophy after winning the prize for his KC-135 aircraft boom instructor platform at the Air Force Association Air Warfare Symposium on Feb. 22, 2018, in Orlando, Fla. From left are Spark Tank judges CMSAF Kaleth Wirght, Milo Medlin, vice president of Access Services at Alphabet, Inc., and Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David Goldfein. Air Force Magazine photo by Mike Tsukamoto.

A KC-135 aircraft boom instructor platform proposal aimed at solving back and neck issues, proposed by MSgt. Bartek Bachleda, an aircraft boom instructor with 22nd Air Refueling Wing at McConnell AFB, Kan., won the first Air Force Spark Tank competition cup Thursday during AWS18.

A panel of Air Force senior leaders, including Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, decided on the fate of the six finalists. The other entries included proposals to use new spent-brass-sorting technology to generate more money for the US military from spent cartridge casings; for a mobile pod test stand; to use augmented reality in aircraft maintenance, operation, and training; for an Air Force Connect mobile app; and for a graphic display of airfield restrictions and limitations for use on electronic flight bags.

Although there was only one winner, all the ideas will get funding or other support. The need for innovation has been a recurring theme in this year’s conference and Bachleda stressed its importance himself.

“I didn’t come her to win,” he said. “I wanted senior leadership to see this problem in front of them and explain to them that we can save the Air Force all this money.”