The F-35 Seat’s Enhanced Maintainability

An Interview With Armando Martinez

11/18/2010 – During a visit to the Lockheed Martin F-35 facility mid-September, “Mondo” Martinez was interviewed with regard to the new seat in the F-35, which represents an important increase in maintainability.  On average, what takes the F-16 maintainers more than three hours to do with regard to seat maintenance will take F-35 maintainers 15-20 minutes.  This is an obvious improvement with regard to combat operations.  The change is due largely to the need NOT to take the seat out for a number of maintenance operations. Armando Martinez was recently the completion supervisor for the BF-4 or the 4th F35-B; he is now the completion supervisor for the first build of the F35-C, or the naval version of the F-35. In a recent interview, “Mondo” discussed working on the F-35C .  In the slide show below, “Mondo” discusses the seat with SLD’s Robbin Laird, which several aspects are featured in the photos.

Photo Credit:  Lockheed Martin, September 2010

SLD: The ejection seat in the 35 is common across the three aircrafts. You explained before that the seat for the F-35 is much more integrated than the one for the F-16 and that there are many more modular parts so that you don’t have to take the seat out to do repairs.  You obviously don’t have to remove the cockpit, which you do in the F-16.

“Mondo” Martinez: No, and there’s more teardown on the F-16 to get the seat out.  I’m not saying it’s harder, it’s just more time consuming.  For combat you don’t want to waste time in pulling the seat out.  You have to be able to pull the seat out if you need to.  And that’s one of the better options you have on this seat, but you can work most of the seat on the aircraft.

In addtion, you got a lot of replacement items which are easier to get to, to remove and to replace: this is good for maintenance.  Good for the customer and good for everybody. I was talking to one of the guys on the BF-5 line and he was saying that, for the F-16, it could take about three hours to do the maintenance that you could do in about twenty minutes on the 35, because you don’t have to remove the canopy.

SLD: But the point that you were emphasizing and showing me on the aircraft itself is how much repair you could do on the seat while it stays on the plane? You were explaining that this was due to modularity for several parts, and a lot of simplification too.  That there are a lot of mechanical parts that were in the older seats, that are not in the new seats.  So that if they’re not there, they won’t fail, is this correct?

“Mondo” Martinez: Yes, and another important factor is that they’ve cut the inspection requirements immensely on the seat, because you don’t need them as much now. You always have to have inspection, especially when you have to deal with safety of flight.  This is a seat, this is critical for the pilot to leave the aircraft in an emergency and that’s one area you don’t want it to fail.  And always a second pair of eyes never hurts.

SLD: So significantly reducing inspection time necessary to verify the plane safe for flight is another cost saver?

“Mondo” Martinez: Yes, sir.  And when you have less mechanical parts, less areas to work in, the less there is, the less there is to do.

When you have less mechanical parts, less areas to work in, the less there is, the less there is to do.

SLD: Another thing that you were showing me is that the cockpit has been designed with significant upgrades for the safety of the pilot himself.

“Mondo” Martinez: Indeed: for example, they have a tunnel where the actual pilot’s legs go inside of the cockpit and where he sits in it for the rudder pedals.  During an emergency situation, he has what they call the leg restraints, and these leg restraints retract his legs, and make sure that in the time of the ejection, there’s no injury to the pilot.  Not only that, his uniform cover’s got restraints in it too, so it pulls his hands in, and that makes sure there’s no fingers lost or anything when he ejects.  It’s just something the aircraft automatically does for him.

SLD: What about the parachute release?

“Mondo” Martinez: The parachute on the F-35 is designed to eject the pilot out of the backside, rather than straight up.  The parachute opens right up, balances itself and the pilot leaves the aircraft safely. This will reduce significantly threats to the pilot’s safety over traditional aircraft.

The parachute on the F-35 is designed to eject the pilot out of the backside, rather than straight up.  The parachute opens right up, balances itself and the pilot leaves the aircraft safely. This will reduce significantly threats to the pilot’s safety over traditional aircraft.

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—General George Patton Jr.

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