by Senior Airman Wesley Wright
442nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Posted 3/28/2012 Updated 4/5/2012
3/28/2012 - WHITEMAN AFB, Mo. -- The 442nd Maintenance Squadron has performed twice the number of normal phase inspections here to keep the 442nd Fighter Wing's A-10 Thunderbolt IIs in top fighting shape.
The Air Force requires that before 500 hours of flight time, each A-10 must be brought into a maintenance hangar to undergo a phase inspection. This could be phase I, where the plane is considered fully mission capable upon passing inspection, or phase II, where a pilot must take the jet on a check-flight after the inspection. To avoid having too many jets out of service at once, the inspection schedule is staggered so while one or two planes are receiving routine maintenance the rest are out fulfilling the mission.
Chief Master Sgt. Cary Brown, 442nd MXS superintendent, said the phase team has learned to do more with less, especially now that...
"The current home station phase crew is not fully manned, it is a skeleton crew, doing a phase in about 30 days versus the normal 20," he said.
Their mission is not confined to Whiteman, however. The unit regularly deploys and performs phase inspections when deployed.
"The current deployed phase crew is doing a phase every five to six days versus 20 days - the normal flow at home station when fully manned," Brown said.
Despite the high work tempo, Brown said the unit comes through.
"It is about aircraft availability; we are constantly pushing aircraft through," Brown said. "We do timely inspections to get them out there."
Senior Master Sgt. Mike Bannon, 442nd Intermediated Automatic Test Station Shop supervisor, agreed with Brown.
Bannon was brought in to fill the phase and repair and reclamation flight chief spot left vacant by the group's recent deployment.
"After you send a plane out, you typically have a few days to a week to perform additional duties and get the dock prepped for the next plane," Bannon said.
While A-10s may all look alike, Brown said each has its own feel.
"Every plane has its own nuances; pilots give feedback to chiefs, who can tell us what is needed," Brown said.
Brown said despite being shorthanded due to the recent deployment, the job is too important to fall by the wayside.
"It's critical to put those hours back into the fleet," he said. "Those aircraft have to be available."
Bannon said the phase crew is dedicated to their job.
"Our phase inspect team is a great group of people who refuse to fail," Bannon said. "They enjoy their job and what it stands for."