Air Force

August 3, 2012

Helicopter maintenance keeps aircraft flying differently than others do

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By Senior Airman Jack Sanders
99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Staff Sgt. Josh Shaw, 823rd Maintenance Squadron aerospace propulsion technician looks through a part of an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter engine during repair. The HH-60 engine being repaired was part of a non-scheduled maintenance pull.

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — Airmen of the 823rd Maintenance Squadron here perform engine maintenance in a way no one else in the Air Force does.

Mechanics from the 823rd MXS, a tenant unit assigned to Moody AFB, Ga., maintain and repair engines and auxiliary power units for the HH-60 Pave Hawk. These mechanics are part of the Air Force’s only engine maintenance shop to perform flightline, back shop and phase inspections.

“We’re a pretty busy shop compared to most other shops … most other engine shops are doing one or another, not all three,” said Master Sgt. Sarah Shuss, 823rd MXS propulsion section chief. “Comparing us to other shops – they just don’t stack up.”

The 823rd mechanics support three engine shop functions within the squadron here. On any given day, the mechanics could be in their back shop performing Phase inspections or out on the flightline repairing or replacing HH-60 engines and APUs.

“We’re part of the [flying] team,” Shuss said. “We have to make sure there are engines out [on the flightline] so, if [the helicopter crews] have any problems with the engines or APUs, we have technicians who can respond immediately to ensure they get an on time take off.”

Shuss said the working on these engines makes the 823rd mechanics proud.

“[The HH-60 engines are] probably the easiest engine in the Air Force,” Shuss said. “As far as changing out parts everything’s pretty easy, even when it’s installed on the aircraft. You can see the size of the engine – there’s not a whole lot to it. It doesn’t break, and it’s amazing for what we put it through. When they land out in the desert its ingesting dirt, rocks and can come back, and we don’t have to change the engine.

“For the guys on the ramp, a rock is pretty much ending an engine’s life – it’ll [foreign- object damage] it out, but not for these [engines]. It’s a really tough engine. I’ve pulled crushed cans out of the inlet. We’ve pulled the tumble weeds that you’ve seen floating around out of the inlets, and it doesn’t affect this engine. It’s pretty crazy. It was a really well built engine,” she said.

Working differently than any other Air Force engine maintenance shop doesn’t bother the 823rd Airmen.

“I can pretty much send any of my people to do any of the [MXS] jobs,” Shuss said. “It really helps to the overall seamlessness of an engine troop to be able to go from flightline to back shop to phase maintenance, and it gives me, as a section chief, the flexibility to move my people around.”

Shuss said the way her shop works might not be best for other shops but, “we’re doing this mission the best way possible.”




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