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November 2, 2012

Hush house … not so quiet place

Staff Sgts. Matthew Price and Nathan Varnagates, 56th Component Maintenance Squadron test cell technicians, review an engine download after running it in full afterburner at hush house two. There are three hush houses at Luke AFB, two of which are for uninstalled engine runs and one is used after quiet hours for installed engine runs.

Luke Air Force Base is surrounded by many communities who experience their share of F-16 engine noise, but there is one area that quiets the powerful engine.

The 56th Component Maintenance Squadron hush house runs engines at full afterburner and surrounding neighbors never know.

“Test cell is where all engine troops strive to work,” said Tech. Sgt. Nina Brown, 56th CMS test cell production supervisor. “Once someone is assigned to test cell, they are put into training.”

The months of training includes steps to become a certified test cell technician. An Airman needs to know the engine’s limits, emergency procedures, and technical orders and become familiar with the hush house.

“The first actual hands-on training is ground operations,” Brown said. “It involves learning how to spot leaks, do fire guard and notice engine abnormalities while it is running.”

An Airman will also work in a control cab to record an F-16’s performance during a test. He or she is required to memorize and carry out emergency procedures. The control cab runner is in charge of the test run of the engines and the crew. It takes at least six months to become certified on uninstalled engine runs.

Staff Sgt. Nathan Varnagatas safety wires fuel tubes after a test cell run at hush house two at Luke Air Force Base.

“It takes the best-of-the-best in the engine maintainer world to work at test cell,” Brown said. “If you work at test cell, you’re pretty much as awesome as it gets.”

A hush house consists of noise dampening materials in the walls to lower the decibel level outside the facility muting the noise of the engine of the F-16.

Tech. Sgt. Nina Brown, 56th CMS test cell production supervisor, executes a post test cell inlet inspection at hush house two.

“It is called a hush house because it is a noise suppressor system,” Brown said. “It gives us the capabilities to test engines 24-hours-a-day without disturbing the local community. We have three hush houses. Two houses are used for uninstalled engine runs and hush house three is used for installed engine runs. Hush house three is used after quiet hours so the flightline maintainers are still able to run aircraft.”

Engines come to the hush house after they’re built up at the 56th CMS Jet Engine Intermediate Maintenance. They’re examined at the test cell to ensure they are ready to be installed into the jet.

“The men and women of the test facility enhance and validate the hard work performed by the entire propulsion flight,” said Master Sgt. Austin English, 56th CMS test facility section chief. “Extreme attention to detail and system knowledge guarantee a safe, high-quality product for the flightline.”

During inspection, hush house technicians make sure all parameters on the engine are serviceable.

Test cell technicians run an engine in full afterburner at hush house two at Luke Air Force Base. The technicians check the oil pressure, core speed, fan speed and temperature during an engine run.

“We check to make sure the engine isn’t vibrating out of limits,” Brown said. “We are checking limits on oil pressure, core speed, fan speed and temperature. We have several different tests that we do based on the maintenance that was done in JEIM.”

After testing the engine, it’s then sent back to JEIM for final inspection.

“The propulsion flight test cell facility has tested more than 120 engines and supported 91 aircraft tests so far in 2012,” said Chief Master Sgt. Reginald Franks, 56th CMS Propulsion Flight chief. “They continue to provide the most rigorous testing capability of the Luke F-100 engine fleet. Additionally, their oversight of the hush houses has direct impact to flightline mission effectiveness.”

An engine runs at full afterburner viewed from under the engine at hush house two. The hush houses are located together on the south end of the base near the 944th Fighter Wing.




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