Oil, metal, jet fuel, heavy machinery and elbow grease are words that describe the inside of the 56th Equipment Maintenance Squadron’s phase shop hangar at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz.
Inside these hangars, Airmen work behind the scenes on Luke’s inventory of F-16 Fighting Falcons to ensure they’re ready to fly when our nation calls.
“We do operations checks, or what we call phases, that aren’t normally done on the flight line,” said Staff Sgt. Drew Hagen, 56th EMS phase team member.” These checks include opening panels or changing major components which sometimes reveal hidden problems.”
Finding hidden problems increases the amount of time needed to fix the jet and can decrease the amount of time pilots have to train.
“Phase has to balance inspecting and fixing the jet thoroughly and safely,” said. Capt. Payje Kuhlemeier, 56th EMS maintenance flight commander.
“Phase is the only shop that gives flying hours back to ops, so we need to fix the jet as fast as possible.”
When maintaining the integrity of an aircraft, Airmen at Phase work together with different shops in order to avoid delayed discrepancies.
“Communication is very important within the shops,” Kuhlemeier said. “When requesting for a procedure to be done, the engineers must maintain a steady communication with other shops to balance workloads when big problems arise. They also inspect and estimate the amount of time needed to fix the jet.”
After the estimate, coordination and prioritization between phase and the other squadrons is needed to handle any mechanical issues.
“It’s a group effort,” Hagen said. “A thorough inspection of the jet after the issues have been fixed are instrumental to the integrity of the aircraft.”
The Airmen at phase work together to maintain a steady line of communication and complete phases on a daily basis which contributes to the continuing success of the F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot training mission.
“We completed 24 phases last year and this year we are on track to completing 36,” Kuhlemeier said. “It will be a big challenge, but I believe we can do it. The maintainers in phase are all highly qualified and will work hard to meet their goal.”