Defense

August 11, 2017
 

Final Hill AFB F-16 goes through phase

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by Alana Young
Hill AFB, Utah

Airman 1st Class Jackson Doyle, an avionics technician assigned to the 421st Aircraft Maintenance Unit, installs the left sidewall fairing on an F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft during phase maintenance at Hill Air Force Base, July 26, 2017. The jet pictured is the last Hill AFB F-16 to go through phase at the base. After completing its phase inspection, this jet is scheduled for permanent transfer to Holloman AFB, New Mexico.

As the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, transition from the F-16 Fighting Falcon to the F-35A Lightning II, milestones occur frequently.

Another milestone is currently underway; the 388th Maintenance Squadron is performing its final phase inspection on a Hill AFB F-16.

The 388th MXS Aircraft Inspection Section is conducting the phase inspection—an in-depth break down of the aircraft based on a specific time frame—on tail number 429. During phase, most of the aircraft’s panels are removed and all systems are inspected, serviced and/or replaced. Any issues found during the phase inspection, such as necessary replacement of nuts and bolts or even a full flight control surface, are addressed and corrected.

“We inspect everything from inside the cockpit all the way back to the motor,” said Inspection Section Dock Chief Tech. Sgt. Robert Turner. “We perform operational checks of the flight controls, landing gear, and everything in between.”

According to Turner, this deeper airframe inspection cannot be completed during flightline operations, so the jet is brought inside the Aircraft Inspection Section’s hangar after every 400 flying hours. Other factors which determine when an aircraft goes through phase include a phase flow program and how the aircraft is operating prior to phase.

Staff Sgt. Colby Cole, a crew chief assigned to the 419th Maintenance Squadron, disconnects F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft hydraulic lines during phase maintenance at Hill Air Force Base, July 26, 2017. The jet pictured is the last Hill AFB F-16 to go through phase at the base. The 388th and 419th Fighter Wings are transitioning to the F-35A Lightning II.

The time required for a phase inspection varies based on several factors, but the jet is typically scheduled for 10-14 days in the phase hangar.

“It all depends on the phase contract and what is found during inspection,” said Turner. “It can take longer based on required Time Change items, TCTOs (Time Compliance Technical Order), and unforeseen maintenance.”

Depending on the day and stage of phase the aircraft is in, anywhere from six to fifteen Airmen will work on a single aircraft.

The inspection section prides itself on high quality work leading to “Gold Standard” airplanes.

To Turner, this standard means “putting out a quality product to the AMUs (Aircraft Maintenance Units), giving them back an aircraft done with quality maintenance and top-notch workers.”

Staff Sgt. Colby Cole, a crew chief assigned to the 419th Maintenance Squadron, looks at a technical order while disconnecting F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft hydraulic lines during phase maintenance at Hill Air Force Base, July 26, 2017. The jet pictured is the last Hill AFB F-16 to go through phase at the base. The 388th and 419th Fighter Wings are transitioning to the F-35A Lightning II.

Performing phase on the last F-16 at Hill is meaningful to Turner and his teammates.

“To be able to say that you did the last phase inspection for the wing and for the F-16s flying out of Hill AFB is a tremendous thing,” he said. “It’s both joyous and sad at the same time. You have put a lot of hard work and dedication into making sure that every plane that comes through is the best product we can put out…it’s still a great milestone to be a part of. It will be something we all will remember being here for and being part of history.”

After completing its phase inspection, tail number 429 is scheduled for permanent transfer to Holloman AFB, N.M., ending F-16 phase inspections at Hill AFB.
 

Airman 1st Class Dominic Haughian, left, and Airman 1st Class Nicholas Williams, both crew chiefs assigned to the 388th Maintenance Squadron, remove a hydraulic return manifold from an F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft during phase maintenance at Hill Air Force Base, July 26, 2017. The jet is the last Hill AFB F-16 to go through phase at the base. After completing its phase inspection, this jet is scheduled for permanent transfer to Holloman AFB, New Mexico.

 

Airmen assigned to Hill Air Force Base perform phase maintenance for the final time on an F-16 Fighting Falcon assigned to the base, July 26, 2017. This jet is being transferred to Holloman AFB while Hill AFB transitions to the F-35A Lightning II.

 

Staff Sgt. Skyler Williams, a crew chief assigned to the 388th Maintenance Squadron, removes Accessory Drive Gearbox mounts from an F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft during phase maintenance at Hill Air Force Base, July 26, 2017. After completing its phase inspection, this jet is scheduled for permanent transfer to Holloman AFB, N.M.




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