AF unit gets long-awaited mobile access to manuals

After 13 years of trying, the Air Mobility Command finally has a system that lets
flight-line technicians read manuals on their mobile terminals.


“This is the first time we’ve been able to field it across AMC,” said
Capt. Stan Griffis, chief of logistics integration initiatives for the Air Mobility
Command at Scott Air Force Base, Ill. Previous systems provided data or voice access at
only one point, Griffis said.


A spread-spectrum radio network gives AMC technicians full network connectivity so they
can order parts and consult technical manuals stored on mainframes and servers, Griffis
said.


The technicians carry MobilePads from Telos Corp. of Ashburn, Va. The 3.4-pound
wireless terminals connect to the network via Microsoft Windows NT Server 3.51 as modified
by Cruise Technologies Inc. of Arlington Heights, Ill.


The MobilePads run WinFrame clients from Citrix Systems Inc. of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
They have no individual processing power but merely present graphical views of the server
sessions, Griffis said.


“It cuts down on the amount of time technicians spend looking for
information,” he said.


A single aircraft might have as many as 200 technical manuals covering different
systems. A year ago, one AMC facility found that an inspection requiring 2,100 hours with
pencil and paper took 1,800 hours with a MobilePad.


Once technicians complete repairs, they send immediate updates through their
MobilePads, streamlining the workflow for teams. “If it doesn’t change the way
we do our work, then I’m not doing my job,” Griffis said.


The first four bases using the MobilePads are Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., Dover
Air Force Base, Del., McCord Air Force Base, Wash., and Travis Air Force Base, Calif. By
the end of September, AMC will have spent $1.2 million installing as many as 200
MobilePads at the four bases, Griffis said.


Within three years, the command’s 13 base sites will have about 2,000 of the
units. “There have been no problems that I wouldn’t consider normal for this
kind of system,” Griffis said.


Except for the servers, bought through Telos’ Army Small Multiuser Computer II
contract, AMC bought all products and services through Telos’ General Services
Administration Information Technology Schedule contract, Griffis said.


The command chose several server brands. All have at least two 200-MHz Pentium
processors, 10M of RAM per mobile client—usually 500M total—and 4G to 6G hard
drives, Griffis said. Each base has one server, and many of the technical documents reside
on separate CD-ROM servers on LANs running Novell NetWare.


The MobilePads have color or monochrome 81'2-inch displays. Technicians can plug in
keyboards as peripherals or touch software keys on screen, Griffis said.  

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