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Mechanical Mockups for Maintenance Training

Maintenance is critical to the continued operation of military jets. This company has found a way to enable training without going to the expense of using a working engine.

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This Pratt & Whitney F135 engine mockup, made by Clinkenbeard, is used for maintenance training at the Eglin Air Force Base.

Clinkenbeard, a company that I wrote about in this article, specializes in the rapid production of complex metal castings and machined parts that are meant to excel in real-world applications. It is also known for its rapid prototyping capabilities. That was the impetus behind launching its new Mechanical Prototypes Division. Its first project? A full-scale fighter jet engine, but one that will never see the sky. That’s because it’s a Pratt & Whitney F135 engine mockup to be used for maintenance training purposes.

It makes perfect sense, when you think about it. “Creating a full size mockup is much more cost effective for the customer than producing an entire engine solely for training purposes,” says Matt Gustafson, director of innovation for Clinkenbeard. “By combining engineered and machined prototypes with available production parts, we were able to replicate an entire engine assembly that allows mechanics to simulate actual maintenance tasks and manipulate the modular components of the engine.”

The project took 15 months from start to finish. It included several phases of development and extensive scheduled inspections by military partners. The project culminated with representatives from the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corp, Royal Air Force, Royal Netherlands Air Force, the F-35 Joint Program Office, and Pratt & Whitney gathering for final testing at Clinkenbeard’s facility in Rockford, Illinois. The mock engine is now in use at the Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.