Saturday, August 27, 2011

Maintenance teamwork keeps A-10s flying over Afghanistan

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- Members of the 451st Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron perform the final steps of Phase 1 maintenance inspection on an A-10 Thunderbolt II here Aug. 25, 2011. During Phase 1, the maintainers remove most aircraft panels to visually inspect all major components to ensure they are working properly. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman David Carbajal) Hi-res

by Senior Airman David Carbajal
451st Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

8/26/2011 - KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- If you cut something in half, usually it's not a good thing - like getting half a sandwich or half a paycheck. In this case, it's a demonstration of excellence.

With current mission requirements, members of the 451st Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron are tasked to perform phase maintenance inspections on the A-10 Thunderbolt IIs in half the time of stateside bases. In many cases, they surpass that goal and complete the inspections even faster.

During these maintenance inspections, commonly referred to as "Phase," the unit performs an inspection of all major components on the aircraft.

"We take nearly all the panels off the aircraft and inspect everything," said Staff Sgt. Richard Chase, 451st Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron inspection section journeyman.

Flying combat sorties comes at a steep price for the maintainers.

"As a general number, for every one flight hour, about six to 12 hours of maintenance must be done," said Staff Sgt. Brian Crofts, 451 EMXS quality assurance technician. "When we fly as much as we do here, a lot of maintenance has to be done to keep these A-10s in the air."

The maintenance team works around the clock with two 12-hour shifts, each day, seven days a week.

In a typical stateside location, Phase 1 maintenance is performed over a 10-day span, said Crofts, an Aiken, S.C., native. "Even though we're given five days to complete the same work, we'll have the aircraft out in three to four days."

To accomplish such a feat, the phase maintenance technicians don't work alone.

"We'll have maintainers from Fabrication, Fuels, Electrical and even the crew chiefs come out and help us," said Senior Master Sgt. Stephen Slaven, 451st Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron maintenance flight chief. "They form a very cohesive team," said Slaven, a Madison, Fla., native who is deployed from Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D.

The unit that flies the Thunderbolts, the 74th Fighter Squadron, and several members of the 451 EMXS are deployed Moody Air Force Base, Ga. On average, the fighter squadron has at least two A-10s flying to support operations throughout the country at any given moment.

Every other Phase maintenance cycle or after 1,000 hours of flying time, the A-10s are treated to Phase 2 maintenance.

"The biggest difference between the two Phases is we go even more in depth in a Phase 2," said Chase, an Avondale, Ariz., native. In Phase 2, the maintenance personnel inspect the "white area," which is found inside the cockpit as well as the maintenance performed in Phase 1.

The timeframe for Phase 2 maintenance is also cut in half, allotting only six days for a typical 12-day task. The unit averages four to five days for Phase 2 maintenance.

Several steps must be accomplished before the aircraft can go back to the flightline.

"Before we re-attach the aircraft panels, we visually inspect everything again to ensure there is no FOD (foreign object debris), missing pieces or damaged components," said Crofts.

Even with the shrunken time requirements, the team still holds a 95 percent inspection passing average.

"I can't tell you how proud I am of my entire team ... the synergy that six flights created to get us to this point has been nothing short of amazing," said Capt. Jhames Illanez, 451 EMXS operations officer.

"In the end, it's all about doing the work that needs to be done to make sure these aircraft can support the warfighters in Afghanistan," said Slaven.


Note: Pictured is A-10C 80-0272 from the 74th Fighter Squadron.

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