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Military

Airmen hunt down problems before having chance to fester

by Staff Sgt. Nathan Gallahan
92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

5/3/2005 - FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. (AFPN) -- When a general practitioner performs a routine examination, the doctor thoroughly examines the patient for overall health.

With the same loving care physicians provide patients, the Airmen of the 92nd Maintenance Squadron work day and night caring for their KC-135 Stratotankers.

Just as specialists may need to called in for a patient, Airmen from nine shops team up to maintain the systems of the bird. More than 20 crew chiefs inspect the aircraft and return them to the air better than when they received them.

Each aircraft is assigned a visit with the periodic inspection team based on a series of factors, including flight hours, calendar days and other issues.

“When an aircraft enters this hangar, it doesn’t get one in-depth inspection, but many inspections tailored specifically to the aircraft,” said Staff Sgt. John Brown, a periodic inspection crew chief with the squadron. “They are very in-depth inspections.”

To keep things organized, the crew chiefs have books of items they inspect, 122 checklists in all, each with an average of 10 separate items.

The books, or work cards, are divided evenly among the crew chiefs working on the jet at the beginning of the inspection.

The newer Airmen usually start out on areas more accessible and less complicated to inspect, Sergeant Brown said. As the Airmen progress through their training, they work their way through the more complicated systems.

At all times there is a supervisor on duty watching over the entire process and helping out when needed.

The textbook answer to the question, “How long does it take to inspect the aircraft?” is six days, but usually the maintainers finish in five.

“Some people go to work at a job, but our team puts their heart, soul and sometimes blood into this aircraft,” said Staff Sgt. Mike Matusik, another crew chief with the squadron.

In medical terms, the crew chiefs are like family practitioners, while the back shops are like specialists.

The crew chiefs work on the entire aircraft and keep it going, but when something serious happens, or it needs an in-depth technical inspection, they call in the specialists.

“For all the hard work our team puts in, we couldn’t do it without the support of the back shops,” Sergeant Matusik said.

Once all of the items are inspected, the back shop Airmen finish with their maintenance and inspections. After the supervisors double-check everything, the aircraft can finally go to the “backline.”

“If it comes in working, it needs to leave working,” Sergeant Matusik said. “The backline is the final checks we run, including electrical load tests, engine run-ups, and leak checks.”

The maintainers inspect these aircraft with the same level of caring and professionalism as any doctor, and these Airmen’s “patients” are scheduled to live and fight until 2040.



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