Rigid Lifelines Rolling A-Frame Used for Military Aircraft Mock-ups

An aircraft training and simulator facility for the US government manufactures F-22 Raptor aircraft mock-ups for pilot training/simulation. The manufacturing process involves building the F-22 mock-ups in three sections: the aft, the arm, and the landing gear. These sections can weigh up to 20,000 pounds, and each section is treated as an individual work area, at times reaching nine feet in height. Sections—including the top of the aircraft—are slanted, with a steep pitch—much like that of a sloped rooftop.

Plant Safety Manager John Smith immediately recognized the serious fall hazards associated with each work area. Multiple workers would have to climb atop these sections to position the skin on each aircraft mock-up. Smith realized that his workers would have to carry heavy tools, while climbing steep ladders and navigating the vertical pitch on a daily basis. He also knew that OSHA mandates the use of fall protection for any job requiring workers to climb higher than four feet. Smith needed a system that was portable, non-intrusive, and able to accommodate 5,000 pounds for up to six people at time. Furthermore, he also recognized that multiple workers would need to connect to the same system and still be able to cross paths as they moved along each work area.

At first, Smith inquired about a traditional cable system to meet his fall protection needs, but found that it was unable to provide the portability that they needed and had a very ‘limited footprint’. Furthermore, Smith was dissuaded by the fact that traditional cable systems do not eliminate sag or significant freefall distances. In other words, a cable system would prevent a total fall but would not eliminate the risk of a swing fall or bodily injury.

Smith was desperately trying to find a system that would keep his workers safe without hindering their ability to get the job done. That’s when he reached out to Rigid Lifelines’ sales rep Bud Lohr, who provided him a full presentation of Rigid Lifelines’ enclosed Anchor Track™ fall protection systems. Smith brought his entire safety committee along to participate in the presentation, during which Bud highlighted the Rigid Lifelines’ Rolling A-Frame system. It wasn’t long before Smith and his counterparts began to see the value in a Rolling A-Frame fall protection system to keep workers as safe as possible at height.

The Rigid Lifelines’ Rolling A-Frame system now provides portability and flexibility, considering workers can roll it from one workstation to another, before locking it into place.  It also permitted multiple workers to connect to the dual track system simultaneously—allowing them to work fully protected and pass one another on the dual track as needed. Once Smith’s company decided to invest in the Rolling A-Frame, workers were able to wheel the system from one mock-up section to another, lock the wheels, and climb the ladder to latch onto the system with a lanyard.

Since the purchase, their new Rolling A-Frame fall protection system has prevented injury during two separate fall events. In each incident the individual fell from the aircraft section and the system not only arrested the fall, it also prevented bodily injury. The system is convenient because, unlike traditional cable systems, Rigid Lifelines’ Anchor Track™ does not have to be tagged and taken out of commission for inspection after a fall. Rather, it can remain in constant use, providing better workplace efficiency and the peace of mind that workers are always protected at height. Since installing the Rolling A-Frame from Rigid Lifelines, there have been zero worker complaints. In fact, according to Smith, “When employees don’t like a new process at work, they complain. But I’ve heard no such complaints with the new Rolling A-Frame, and I’ve noticed that workers are much less nervous climbing on the F-22 mock-up sections we manufacture on a daily basis.” Smith also noted that, overall, efficiency has improved, production has increased, and safety is no longer a concern for workers at height.


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Kristina Harman

Senior Technical Writer | Rigidlifelines.com
Kristina Harman was formerly a senior technical writer and content manager for Rigid Lifelines, a division of Spanco, Inc. Kristina has twelve years of experience in content development, technical communications, and copyediting. She holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in English from Towson University and a Master of Education Certification in English from Johns Hopkins University. She is a member of the Society for Technical Communication and the American Medical Writers Association.