309th AMARG returns final T-1A to training operations

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T-1A, 93-0623, before an early morning functional check flight Dec. 2, 2020, after undergoing hail damage repair and maintenance at the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. The aircraft is assigned to Laughlin AFB, Texas. (Air Force photograph by Terry Pittman)
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“At its peak, the T-1A repair and maintenance production line employed a total of 36 sheet metal, APG and avionics technicians,” said John Meske, the 576th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Squadron’s Medium Aircraft flight chief.

An audit in 2017 by the AFSC Flight Standards Management Office resulted in the group’s qualification for the Military Repair Station Program and associated Federal Aviation Administration regulatory requirements, certifying 309 AMARG as AFSC’s first-ever FAA equivalent Military Repair Station, which provided an avenue to create revenue and perform commercial-type work.

The T-1A Jayhawk maintenance team at the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., bids farewell to the flight crew Dec. 17, 2020, before the crew departs for Laughlin AFB, Texas. The delivery of T-1A, 93-0623, commemorated the completion of the hail damage repair and maintenance program. (Air Force photograph by Terry Pittman)

Repairing the hail-damaged aircraft was labor intensive. Planning documents called for stripping the aircraft interior, removing engines, disassembling the nose and aft cargo bay area, shoring, symmetry checks, and removing five critical pressurized skins. Once replacement skins were available for installation, the work was reversed for reassembly.

AMARG ingenuity spawned the creation of wooden drilling fixtures to hold engine cowls and replacement skins in place as sheet metal workers transferred and matched holes from old panels to new.

Besides replacing skins, mechanics also performed corrosion inspections and replacement repairs to lavatory areas on six of the 10 aircraft.

“The AMARG team invested approximately 108,000 thousand man hours into this repair and maintenance program,” said Col. Jennifer Barnard, 309th AMARG commander. “This was the heaviest maintenance these aircraft have undergone and these professionals worked tirelessly to return a quality product to the Air Force’s training command.”

Early in the program, there were supply chain challenges for the System Program Office, but nothing Brittney Barton, the AFLCMC T-1 logistics manager couldn’t resolve.

Chad Ellingson, 576th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Squadron, assists the flight crew Dec. 17, 2020, as they prepare to depart Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., for Laughlin AFB, Texas. The delivery of T-1A, 93-0623, commemorated the completion of the hail damage repair and maintenance program. (Air Force photograph by Terry Pittman)

“We applied lessons learned from the other repair line to front-load AMARG with as many parts as we could anticipate in order for this effort to be successful,” said Barton. “We figured out what our supply contractor needed from us to get parts ordered and delivered relatively quickly.”

Barton’s efforts paid off. The parts supplier was eventually able to turn parts the next day depending on part size and mechanics were able to achieve more than one functional check flight a week due to parts availability.

“Something as simple as tracking each tail and the number of functional check flights it took to successfully pass showed how much pride this team put into this effort. They cared. That resonated with us because the program team also cared. To connect with them in such a way makes me very proud of what we’ve done to work through this together,” Barton said.

The T-1 SPO team agrees that teamwork and communication between the SPO, Supply Chain, 309th AMARG and the original equipment manufacturer contributed to the success of the program.

“Without the efforts of AMARG, we’d still be repairing aircraft,” said Brandon. “A quarter of the fleet was taken down by a hail storm which significantly impacted the ability to train students. Now that we have that fleet back on the front line, their aircraft availability has increased by 15 to 20 percent.”

“It’s the quality of the product,” said Clay. “It’s one thing to have it back, but when the aircraft stay in the air and stay available longer because AMARG has done their job so well, it only translates into good things. They can fly more hours, pilots graduate quicker, etc. At the end of the day, (Air Mobility Command and Air Combat Command0 have pilots ready to go when they need them.”

The T-1 SPO team looks forward to continuing a relationship with AMARG.

Chad Ellingson, 576th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Squadron, marshals the last T-1A Jayhawk out of the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., Dec. 17, 2020. A fleet of hail-damaged T-1A trainers are now back in the air thanks to a unique repair and maintenance mission performed by the group. (Air Force photograph by Terry Pittman)

“Having visited the facility, the underlying message is the AMARG workforce is very competent in their abilities. They are the masters of doing a hundred different things one time versus masters of doing one thing a hundred times. We have a fleet of 177 aircraft and we know problems are going to pop up. What a resource to have in our hip pocket. To see a skill in place, a great team, facilities, everything you need,” Clay said.

AMARG’s participation in the repair effort for the Air Force’s hail-damaged T-1A Jayhawks is representative of the group’s ongoing contribution to the U.S. military, the U.S. government, and the U.S. taxpayer, yet another example of its title: America’s National-level Air Power Reservoir.

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