The Air Force Research Laboratory’s Junior Force Warfighter Operations team’s new project? A “milk stool.”
The so-called milk stool is a wooden support intended to be placed under the rear ramp of a C-130 aircraft during loading operations that involve significant weight, according to information from the Air Force Research Laboratory.
Without the milk stool, a heavy load can potentially cause the front of the plane to lift off the ground.
In order to maintain a maximum level of safety, the stool must be able to support up to 72,000 pounds.
The current iteration of the milk stool is considered to be very cumbersome and difficult to store, according to the research lab.
The stool weighs approximately 85 pounds and requires two people to position under the loading ramp.
Since 2011, when a group of Air Force Academy cadets attempted to design a lightweight version of the stool, the Junior Force Warfighter Operations team, alternatively known as JFWORX, has been carrying on the work.
The JFWORX team constructed the new stool out of aluminum tubing and plates because of its availability, low cost and strength, according to the research lab. The materials to construct the stool cost about $125, more than the approximate $75 cost of the original model.
But because the new version of the stool is 55 pounds lighter than its predecessor, the Air Force will save money in fuel costs instead — estimated at up to $1.7 million if the new stool is adopted across the entire C-130 fleet.
According to Christopher Falkowski, facilities engineer and member of the JFWORX team, the group is creating a patent application for the updated stool design.
“It’s gratifying to know that you are saving the Defense Department money and preventing injury to warfighters,” Falkowski said, according to the Air Force Research Laboratory.
Production for the new milk stool could come as early as 2019.
Noah Nash is a rising senior at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio. At school, he is the editor in chief of the Collegian Magazine and the digital director of the Collegian, Kenyon's newspaper.