Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Airmen perform maintenance to keep A-10's flying

Senior Airman Jeremy Fly, 442nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron weapons loader, updates aircraft forms after a gun is loaded onto an A-10 Thunderbolt II here Nov. 4. These forms are updated every three to four days. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nick Wilson)


Note: Pictured is A-10C 79-0117.

by Senior Airman Nick Wilson
509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

11/28/2011 - WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- As the Air Force's A-10 Thunderbolt II's climb high into the sun to fly, fight and win, Airmen from the 442nd Maintenance Squadron are on the job day and night to maintain their engines. They keep the warthogs in the skies so they can continue to provide close air support to Airmen and other servicemembers fighting on the ground down range.

One of the A-10 Thunderbolt II engines these Airmen have been maintaining recently accumulated more than 3,000 flight hours.

"That's a pretty significant accomplishment," said Chief Master Sgt. Mike Pignotti, 442nd MXS propulsion supervisor. "You won't see any other fighter aircraft in our Air Force inventory that can keep an engine on as long as an A-10 Thunderbolt II can."

According to Airmen who maintain these engines, one process that helps accomplish such a feat is the phase inspection that each A-10 Thunderbolt II is required to undergo every 500 flight hours.

"A lot of mishaps can be prevented by performing these inspections," said Master Sgt. Kellie Askew 442nd MXS phase dock flight chief.

To ensure mishaps with the airplane are prevented, technicians specializing in fuels, avionics, hydraulics, sheet metal, egress, armament and propulsion play a part in the phase process when it comes to repairing discrepancies once they are found.

"When the airplane goes into phase, that is everyone's chance to see what's going on with the airplane and to introduce reliability into it," Pignotti said. "The more you can fix during that phase period, the more problems you can prevent down the road."

"It is very important that we perform these inspections so we know that these airplanes and motors will not fail. We take these inspections very seriously," said Staff Sgt. Boyd Kempher, 442nd MXS aerospace propulsion craftsman.

Maintenance veterans who have operated in the game for more than 25 years, like Pignotti, are living proof of the experience, knowledge and expertise that assists younger Airmen in accomplishing feats such as maintaining an engine that has compiled more than 3,000 flight hours.

"Working on machinery that's more than 30 years old isn't easy," explained Pignotti. "When you've worked on something for 25 or 30 years, and then you hear the problem coming in on the radio from the pilot, you already have an idea of what it is and how to fix it."

Technicians working on the aircraft are responsible for paying attention to every detail when inspecting and troubleshooting various components. To ensure steps aren't missed, Airmen follow sets of procedures in work decks, job guides and troubleshooting guides to get the job done right.

"It's basically a checklist that tells you what you'll need to look for," said Pignotti. "When something needs to be fixed, it'll tell you what panel to open up and what components to inspect."

In spite of having these troubleshooting manuals available as a reference, Pignotti explains that there are times when even the troubleshooting manuals won't solve certain problems.

"Some guides are better than others," said Pignotti. "Some are more generalized to where the effectiveness of that troubleshooting procedure is going to merely be based on the experience of the technician that's trying to figure out what's wrong. That's where the experience comes in that makes up for the lack of what the troubleshooting book tells you. When that happens, we look at the problem to brainstorm what the problem is and identify a pathway to isolate what's going on."

As the A-10 Thunderbolt II ages, Airmen from the 442nd MXS are working with trained and skillful eyes to keep them flying while adapting to overcome to new difficulties and setbacks that will continuously arise through the years.

"We learn something new every day," said Pignotti. "We see something on these airplanes almost on a weekly basis that we've never seen before. I've worked on them since 1984. That's just a product of the airplanes just getting old; things happen."


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