RICHMOND, Va.(Army News Service, Feb. 25, 2005) - Two National Guard Soldiers got a chance to see their idea of using NASCAR windshield tear-offs on Army helicopters come to life as they helped apply the laminate to one of the unit's UH-60 Black Hawks Feb. 22.
Sgt. 1st Class Paul Kagi and Sgt. Mike "Moon" Mullen, Virginia Army National Guard helicopter mechanics, submitted the idea to use a tear-off windshield used on racecars to the Army Suggestion Program five years ago after sand and debris damaged most of their unit's helicopter windshields during a training mission.
The 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment deployed to the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif., with new helicopters, and had to replace about 80 percent of the windshields upon returning home.
"It's a lot easier to peel this off and put another on than it is to replace a windshield," said Mullen, a 29-year veteran of Army aviation.
Kagi said he contacted the Defense Supply Center Richmond, the Defense Logistic Agency's aviation supply chain manager, for help after he and Mullen came up with the idea.
"An item manager for Black Hawk windshields in (DSCR), Richard Stackhouse, was extremely helpful," said Kagi, who has 23 years aviation experience. "He provided us the cost and the number of windshields purchased, which was very helpful information. That's the kind of information that propels a suggestion forward."
The idea caught the interest of the Army and other agencies concerned about the increased consumption rate of Black Hawk windshields from operations in the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan. That rate reached the point where demand outstripped the manufacturer's ability to produce them fast enough. The three windshields on a Black Hawk cost $15,000 to replace.
DSCR's Aviation Engineering Directorate provided the funding and partnered with Army officials to find a solution.
An integrated team performed engineering and feasibility studies, and testing on the laminate. The team determined that the laminate, which costs $1,100 to apply, prolongs the life of the windshield from six to
15 months. When the laminate is damaged, it can be peeled off and a new one applied.
"While the project focused on qualifying the laminates for Army Black Hawk helicopters, development and testing was also done on the Chinook," said Taylor Frazier, an engineer in DSCR's Sustainment Engineering Branch. "The (Army's) Aviation Applied Technology Directorate did flight testing of the laminate at Yuma (Ariz.) Proving Ground. The Army Cargo Helicopters Program Management Office allowed us to piggyback during their testing, so we were able to avoid $500,000 in flight-testing costs."
In November 2004, the Army authorized the laminate for use on its Black Hawk helicopters in Iraq and Afghanistan. Units can order the laminate and an application kit through the supply chain.
The laminate reduces ultraviolet rays by 99 percent and will last three to six months. Soldiers will be able to apply it with a simple tool kit. The process is "Soldier proof" Frazier said.
The tear-offs will save the Army nearly $14,000 each time a windshield replacement is avoided. The Soldiers could earn up to $25,000 for their suggestion and admit that getting the money would be nice, but say that wasn't their goal.
"We just wanted to find a solution that would keep the birds flying and save the Army money," Mullen said.
(Editor's note: Debra Bingham and Will Daniel work for the
Defense Supply Center Richmond Public Affairs Office.)