The 823rd Maintenance Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., recently performed a repair and complete rebuild of an HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter fuel probe May 10, 2017 — a first for Air Force helicopter maintenance squadrons.
“The Airmen cut the turn-around time from 30 days to five days by doing everything in-house, saving the Air Force nearly $118,000 in exchange costs per probe,” said Alberto Hernandez, 823rd MXS fuel systems section chief.
As the premier personnel recovery helicopter, the Pave Hawk is heavily relied upon by the Air Force to conduct day and night operations in hostile environments.
The Pave Hawk owes most of its combat efficiency to its ability to refuel mid-flight using a retractable fuel probe, but if the probe is damaged, the helicopter becomes significantly less capable of performing its diverse mission.
The 823rd MXS addressed this problem when more than half of the fleet was not operational because of damaged fuel probes; the Airmen took the initiative to find a solution.
“The fuels shop got approval to pull the probe apart,” said Maj. Jordan Smyth, 823rd MXS operations officer. “It isn’t rocket science, but it’s something we weren’t allowed to do before.”
The team of aircraft fuel maintainers detached the probe from the helicopter, disassembled the probe, repaired the damaged seals causing the leaks, then reassembled the probe and reattached the probe to the helicopter.
“Because this was the first attempt at refurbishing a fuel probe at our level, we had to locally manufacture a suitable repair stand and use special tools for the procedure,” said Hernandez.
Smyth hopes to have the seven remaining probes repaired in the next few months.
“The repair was very simple,” said Smyth. “However, the impact that this is going to have on our combat and fleet capability is huge.”
Smyth said the squadron plans to take the knowledge they learned and pass it on to other Pave Hawk fleets in the Air Force that are facing the same obstacle with the fuel probes.