KC-135 aircraft boom instructor platform wins Spark Tank cup

August 24th, 2018

Master Sgt. Bartek "Bach" Bachleda, 22nd Air Refueling Wing aircraft boom instructor, from McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas, won the inaugural Air Force Spark Tank competition cup at the Air Force Association Air Warfare Symposium Feb. 22, 2018, in Orlando, Florida, for his KC-135 aircraft boom instructor platform idea.

This first iteration of the new Spark Tank effort, which AFWERX launched in collaboration with Airmen Powered by Innovation, brought six finalists to AFA’s symposium. Bachleda presented a proposal to re-engineer the boom operator instructor’s position for the entire KC-135 fleet and offer a more stable and ergonomic platform to reduce back and neck injuries.

Bachleda’s design is intended to dramatically reduce injuries to KC-135 boom operators. As an instructor with over 3400 hours and 700 flights, MSgt Bachleda had a deep understanding of the challenges Boom Operator instructors faced. He First began development of the pad and hip pillow in early 2013, performing engineering, testing and evaluation on his own time while maintaining a busy mission schedule. The new design adds a new cushion, panel, and chin rest to help with back and neck issues.

Every idea out there was amazing, it doesn’t matter what rank you are its innovation. It’s either you got it or don’t, if you don’t… learn it and everyone can invent something.
Master Sgt. Bartek Bachleda

In July 2018, AFWERX Vegas hosted a four day design thinking workshop, convening experts from the Air Force and industry to meet with MSgt. Bachleda to develop a more robust prototype of Bach's design for testing and evaluation.