February 15, 2013

Yuma F-35B is lifted to new heights by firefighter unit

Aircraft rescue and fire fighter Marines learn how to correctly connect the hoist sling to the F-35B at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Feb. 8.

With the arrival of the F-35B to Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121, Marine Aircraft Group 13 must run through a gauntlet of tests, protocols and procedures with the new F-35B before it is deemed fully flight operational.

In addition, the personnel that work with the aircraft must complete training exercises to know how to operate safely.

One of the many essential exercises conducted Feb. 8 aboard MCAS Yuma was the Crash Damage Recovery course, which was executed by the MCAS Yuma’s aircraft recovery fire fighting unit working alongside VMFA-121.

“This is the first time we have done this type of training here in Yuma, where the ARFF comes out and learns how to do a crane lift with the F-35B,” said SSgt. Joseph Novick, a F-35B field training instructor.

A crane lift entails attaching a hoist sling to the end of the crane lifting the tentacle like hoist over the aircraft as Marines with ARFF locate the hook points and attach the hooks on various points. This setup allows the crane to lift the aircraft and moves it as desired.

“When working with a hoist sling, Marines have to keep eye on how much tension is put on each side of the rope,” said Dennis Holzinger, an Eglin Air Force base F-35B instructor, when instructing the firefighting Marines on hoisting procedures. “Every hook point has to have an even amount of tension throughout to ensure the aircraft is not damaged.”

The F-35B has key differences that Marines are not as familiar with, which enhances the importance of this training.

“With every aircraft having different designs there are unique traits for each,” said Gunnery Sgt. Marcos Martinez, a MCAS Yuma aircraft rescue fire fighter section leader and a native of Holtville, Calif. “So for the F-35B we have to know exactly where the hook points are, weight of aircraft and the center of gravity is.”

This training is would be employed operationally if an aircraft runs off the flight line and needs to be put back on without hurting the aircraft or, in a more dire scenario, needs to be towed and put on a truck to be moved.

As a part of the Advanced Follow-on Maintenance Training course, the class is being offered locally for VMFA-121 and AARF Marines that have not received F-35B recovery training at their basic job training school.

“We need to do this type of training to bridge the gap between what they learned in the schoolhouse about aircrafts and what extra things they need to know about the F-35B while working with it,” said Novick.

With the lift complete another part of essential training is done and the F-35B squadron is another step closer to being fully operational and readying themselves to lead the way in Marine Corps Aviation.


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