Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Replacement Toilet Lids and Seats - The Air Force’s $10,000 toilet cover - This Old Toilet 800-658

A latrine cover for a C-5 Galaxy cargo plane used by the Air Force, designed to protect the area from corrosion. The Air Force paid a contractor $10,000 for this item on three separate occasions, most recently in 2017, before the service started using 3-D printing to make the part. (U.S. Air Force)

To the Air Force, it’s a “cover-center wall, troop compartment latrine . . . required to protect the aircraft from corrosion damage in the latrine area.”
To the rest of us, it’s a toilet cover. And until recently, it had a price tag of $10,000.
Officials said last week that the U.S. Air Force paid about $10,000 each to replace toilet seat covers on the C-5 Galaxy, a Vietnam-era military cargo plane that is still in service, at least three times and as recently as last year.
The reason, they say, is that the plane’s manufacturer no longer produces the part, forcing the government to order a customized one when it needs to be replaced. More recently, the service has been able to cut the average cost of the toilet cover to about $300 by using a 3-D printer, an approach top officials want to replicate for other acquisitions.

Air Force officials describe the $10,000 toilet cover as a case of supply-chain economics gone wrong.
The C-5 dates to the 1960s, when it was used to move troops and cargo during the Vietnam War. Lockheed Martin, the plane’s original manufacturer, shut down its C-5 production line in 2001 when the military stopped buying new models. But the Air Force still counts 52 of them in its fleet, and some of them have been put to use in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Keeping the old planes ready to fly means bits of hardware occasionally need to be replaced. Since the Air Force maintains painstakingly specific requirements for equipment components — even toilet parts — doing so is rarely as simple as a trip to Home Depot.
The Air Force says with the Lockheed’s C-5 production line no longer active, there is no company with a fully staffed assembly line ready to produce exactly what it needs. That means the government has to hire a manufacturer to make a mold of the original toilet seat cover, redesign two-dimensional drawings to make sure the cover fits, manufacture a mold for the part, and then produce it — effectively reverse-engineering the toilet cover and building it from scratch.

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by Aaron Gregg

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