823rd MXS Airmen fuel innovation

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Air Force photograph by Airman 1st Class Andrew D. Sarver
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Airman 1st Class Korie Morimoto, 823rd Maintenance Squadron aircraft fuel systems apprentice, performs maintenance on an HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter fuel probe at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., May 4, 2017. The 823rd MXS was tasked with rebuilding the HH-60’s fuel probe to prevent leaks during in-flight refueling.

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.

An Airman assigned to the 823rd Maintenance Squadron prepares to test a recently repaired fuel probe for an HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., May 10, 2017. The Pave Hawk is the Air Force’s premier personnel recovery helicopter and is heavily relied upon to conduct day and night operations in hostile environments.

“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.

Tech. Sgt. Miguel Mascorro, 823rd Maintenance Squadron aircraft structural maintenance NCO in charge, performs adhesive repair on an HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter’s fuel probe at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., May 5, 2017. The old adhesive must be completely removed and the tube must be dry before setting the new adhesive down to ensure it will have a tight, clean seal to prevent fuel leaks.

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.
 

1st Lt. Sarah Atkins, 823rd Maintenance Squadron maintenance flight commander, and Staff Sgt. Cortez Brazill, an 823rd MXS aircraft fuel systems craftsman, discuss the next steps for repairing an HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter’s fuel probe at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., May 4, 2017. The 823rd MXS is the first squadron to perform a repair on an air-to-air fuel probe in-house saving the Air Force $118,000 per probe.

 

Staff Sgt. Lance Cissell, 823rd Maintenance Squadron aircraft fuel systems craftsman, strips off old adhesive during an HH-60G Pave Hawk fuel probe repair at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., May 5, 2017. The probe rebuild consisted of disassembling and replacing the adhesive around each tube to prevent leaks during in-fight refueling.

 

Airmen from the 823rd Maintenance Squadron discuss a plan of action for reassembling an HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter fuel probe at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., May 5, 2017. The fuel probe extends to almost double its normal length during the in-flight refueling process.

 

Staff Sgts. Lance Cissell and Cortez Brazill, 823rd Maintenance Squadron aircraft fuel systems craftsmen, inspect the inside of an HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter’s fuel probe at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., May 4, 2017. The fuel probe was identified to have damaged seals that leaked fuel.

 

An HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter assigned to the 66th Rescue Squadron tests its fuel probe extension at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., May 10, 2017. During air-to-air refueling, the helicopter’s fuel probe extends to nearly double its length to prevent the rotary blades from coming into contact with the fuel line and damaging or completely cutting it.

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