Maintainers Keep Heart of Air Force Pumping
(August 19, 2010)
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (8/17/2010 - AFNS) -- For the Airmen of the 451st
Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron here, keeping the aircraft
fine-tuned and serviced is serious business. So when an operator reports a
problem, the crew chiefs and other maintainers treat it like an emergency room
"When someone visits the emergency room he or she is assessed or triaged,"
said Capt. Duane Richardson, the 451st EAMXS C-130J Super Hercules Aircraft
Maintenance Unit maintenance officer in charge. "The doctors want to know
what symptoms the patient is experiencing and how to best treat them and he
or she needs to know quickly. The same holds true for aircraft maintenance."
"The crew chiefs and pilots talk about the performance of the plane," he
said. "Sometimes the pilots report funny noises or system hiccups. At that
point, the crew chiefs begin to 'triage' or assess the plane."
That's when we start troubleshooting, said Senior Airman William Heptig, a
Members of the 451st Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron remove a damaged propeller from a C-130J Hercules aircraft Aug. 8, 2010, at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan.
crew chief. But sometimes, it's hard to figure out where to begin.
"We ask questions to find out what the system was doing at the time of the
malfunction," he said. "Sometimes we can locate the problem easily but other
times..., it can be interesting."|
It can also be difficult to determine where to begin troubleshooting if the
flying crew can't accurately describe what was happening at the time the problem
occurred, Captain Richardson said.
As with a triage assessment, the crew chiefs must have a thorough general
knowledge of every system on the aircraft in order to "diagnose" the problem.
Then, sometimes a specialist is called.
The specialists include communications navigation, electronic warfare, guidance
and control, hydraulics, engines, and electro-environmental experts.
Staff Sgt. Riaaz Hosein is one of those specialists. He is an aircraft
hydraulics system craftsman and has worked on the C-130Js for the past two years
at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark.
"We diagnose problems associated with the landing gear, guidance control and
steering faults. Other service areas that fall into that arena include brakes
and preventative maintenance.
Sergeant Hosein said being around the other specialists helps him learn the
aircraft and the other systems.
"Not many other systems overlap with hydraulics, but the more I learn about the
aircraft and the different systems, the more it helps me know about my job," he
However there are times when some system problems overlap into different areas,
Captain Richardson said.
"During some surgeries, there may be two different surgeons with different
specialties in the operating room because the surgery may delve into each of
their areas of expertise. Same thing with these guys," he said. "One night, I
was out on an aircraft and the electrical and environmental technicians were
working with the jet engine technicians on a problem because their systems
overlap within the engine itself. They work together to make sure they pinpoint
and repair the problem correctly."
The worst part of maintaining the system is the drastic effects the change in
temperatures has on the critical fluid and the aircraft, Sergeant Hosein said.
"When temperatures on the ground are 100 degrees or more, the temps in the air
can drop as low as minus 30 degrees. That wreaks havoc on the system."
Despite temperature changes, broken parts and troubleshooting, specialists like
engine mechanic Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Thompson, said he enjoys it all.
"One of the best parts of this job is knowing that when the planes take off to
fly a mission, we have done all the inspections and repairs to ensure it has a
successful flight," he said.
But that pride is constant among the group and makes his job as maintenance
officer much easier, Captain Richardson said.
"These guys are one of the most professional groups I've seen," he said. "They
call each other by rank and last names and they use the technical orders every
time they perform an inspection or any type of maintenance. I'm very impressed
with all of them. Part of my job is to take care of them and they make it very
easy for me to do that."
"Some operators will tell the crews, 'good job' or 'great plane,' and some will
bring the guys snacks or something," Captain Richardson said. "But these guys
know that what they do every day is the most valuable thing they can contribute
to the mission. Without crew chiefs and specialists, operators couldn't do what
they do. And while they don't always get patted on the back, they are okay with
Article and photo by USAF TSgt. Renni Thornton
451st Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
Air Force News Service
Comment on this article