Sustaining a Fleet
July 13, 2010
Sustaining a Fleet FORWARD OPERATING BASE WOLVERINE, Afghanistan - Task Force Eagle Assault recently found themselves having to do the unheard of. The UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter maintainers of D Company, TF Eagle Assault, had to complete two different phase maintenance inspections at the same time. "We had a fleet of aircraft that were not up to the 101st aircraft standard," said Capt. Michael Ishida, D Co. commander, TF Eagle Assault. "They needed a lot of care" The two aircraft receiving phase maintenance inspections were at two different phases. One was in a PMI-1, a 360-flight-hour inspection, and the other in a PMI-2, a 720-flight-hour inspection. The phases were done at the perfect time, where it did not impact their mission to have both aircraft down, said Lt. Col. John Kline, TF Eagle Assault commander. They had enough aircraft to support their missions. These aircraft were flown 10 flight hours more than the brigade monthly standard for several months. The brigade standard allows a regulated number of flight hours per aircraft. "A flow allows you to fly your aircraft so that you don't fly all your aircraft into inspection at the same time," said Ishida. Due to mission requirements, the aircraft were flown over the standard flight hours. "Normally you would like to stagger the PMIs so that you are not faced with back-to-back inspections, and the maintenance crew and aircraft fleet is not stretched thin," said Ishida. The only problem they had was not having the adequate personnel to work on two different helicopters needing so much attention to detail. The task force is equipped with enough maintainers to conduct one inspection at a time, said Ishida. There are different sections of a Blackhawk phase maintenance inspection: propeller and rotor, avionics, hydraulics, airframe and power train. "We had to split the shifts as best we could, spreading the experience around," said Ishida. In a time of need, D Co. gained assistance from other companies within the task force. A Co. supplied them with more crew chiefs, and the medical evacuation company also provided some assistance, making an additional four to five on the job, said Ishida. Soldiers who are not helicopter maintainers found a way to help out with the phases as well. Soldiers from E Co. also assisted with the dual PMIs by supplying A Co. with door-gunners to free up some crew chiefs, said Kline. The task force pulled together to accomplish the commander's goal and provide for their mission. It really was a team effort by the whole task force who freed up our time by alleviating extra duties, said Ishida Because a PMI is so crucial to the safety of our Soldiers and our overall mission here, it requires a great deal of attention. During a PMI, we inspect, repair and replace any necessary parts, said Spc. Carl Hendrick, day shift team leader, D Co, TF Eagle Assault. A PMI consists of different phases and is broken down into different sections. They begin with a pre-phase inspection, which consists of a pre-flight to test the vibrations and power of the aircraft, said Hendrick. Then the aircraft is cleaned and torn down for an inspection. A PMI-1 inspection focuses mostly on the flight controls, avionics and electronics, said Hendrick. While during a PMI-2, everything is removed from the aircraft down to the frame and inspected. After a thorough inspection, they are able to identify what needs to be repaired or replaced. "We repair anything that we can," said Hendrick. "If it cannot be repaired, then we have to replace it." The aircraft undergoing the PMI-2 was so battered, the maintainers had more work on their hands than normal. "We broke this one down so much further than usual," said Sgt. Christopher Boucher, hydraulics repairer, D Co., TF Eagle Assault. "We basically rebuilt it." On the PMI-2 aircraft, they ran into a problem which caused the aircraft to be down for a few more days. A section of the exterior surface on the aircraft needed to be repaired which could only be worked on by qualified engineers. "We had to fly specialized personnel up," said Ishida. "That delayed the maintenance process about five days." The PMI-2 took 27 days to complete, which normally takes between 20 to 25 days. The PMI-1 started 13 days after the start of the PMI-2. The PMI-1 was done in 20 days, but is normally scheduled for 12 to 15 days, said Ishida. After the inspection, the aircraft were taken on a post-phase maintenance test flight to check all the functions, said Hendrick. To complete the dual PMIs, the Soldiers of D Co. worked two 12 hour shifts per day and conducted changeover briefs between shifts to inform the Soldier who was taking over where they had left off. "It really was a great sense of pride for the task force that we could pull this off," said Ishida. After accomplishing this tremendous task of completing two PMIs simultaneously, the Blackhawk maintainers of TF Eagle Assault have gained the confidence of their command and allow the air assault missions to continue flying without interruption.