Defense

July 11, 2012

Deployed airmen choreograph vital F-16 maintenance

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by TSgt. Stephen Hudson
Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan
Air Force photograph by TSgt. Stephen Hudson

MSgt. Chris Mood, an electrician with the 451st Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, runs tests on the electronic systems on a South Carolina Air National Guard F-16 while the jet is in the phase dock undergoing required maintenance on June 26, 2012.

After 400 flight hours, the F-16s of the 157th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron are due for a thorough inspection – and the airmen working in the phase dock here are the ones keeping the jets in the fight.

When an F-16 is towed off the line and into the hangar, the choreographed dance of maintenance personnel moving in and around the aircraft is well scripted. The men and women of the 451st Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron break the jet down from top to bottom and meticulously go over it.

“It looks chaotic, but everyone has their own piece of the pie,” said MSgt. Shannon Mines with the 451st Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron.

Air Force photograph by TSgt. Stephen Hudson

A1C Reginald Brown, a phase dock crew chief with the 451st Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, works on components inside an F-16 while the plane is undergoing a phase inspection on June 26, 2012. A phase inspection, done in the phase dock, is completed every 400 hours of flying time and is a detailed inspection of the aircraft.

If the sequence of events surrounding a phase inspection is an orchestra, then Mines is the conductor. As the dock supervisor Mines, who is on his 10th deployment for the Air Force, is responsible for the activities that go on during a phase inspection.

“A lot of maintenance is getting done here,” Mines said.

In a matter of weeks these F-16s are putting on hours that would take months to accumulate back home at McEntire Joint National Guard Base. While a phase inspection can take up to three weeks at home, here it is compressed into three-and-a-half-days.

Since a phase inspection is done every 400 hours, the crews working on the jets are tackling scheduled and unscheduled maintenance, meaning a jet that leaves phase is good for another 30 days. Since April, this is the 15th jet to come through the phase docks. In May phase dock set a Kandahar Airfield record by completing inspections on eight aircraft.

“It has to be 100 percent,” Mines said of the heavy and intense maintenance. “A pilot doesn’t have to worry if his landing gear is going to work.”

As of June 30, the F-16s from the 157th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron have flown around 1,200 sorties totaling more than 5,000 hours.

“It’s a huge team effort,” said Mines. “Every shop in maintenance has a hand in it, and I am very proud of this group of guys.”

Air Force photograph by TSgt. Stephen Hudson

An F-16 from the South Carolina Air National Guard sits in the phase dock at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, while it undergoes a phase inspection. Personnel are deployed from McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.




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