A-10 phase hangar maintains combat-ready aircraft

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Ryan Callaghan
  • 23d Wing Public Affairs
Cars on the road are subject to wear and tearĀ from standard use: threadbare tires, frayed belts, cracked windshields and depleted fluids. Responsible drivers combat these discrepancies with regularly scheduled maintenance to ensure everything under the hood is good to go.

Moody's A-10C Thunderbolt II fleet is subjected to more extreme use than a road-bound vehicle, and its upkeep requirements are exceptional.

The Airmen working day and night in the A-10 Phase Hanger are responsible for ensuring these aging aircraft continue to serve as reliable combat assets.

"Every 500 hours each aircraft is torn apart and an in-depth inspection is done," said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jonathan Holt, 23d Equipment Maintenance Squadron A-10 phase section chief. "They can't depanel the entire aircraft and get to the internal workings in-between every flight on the flightline, so we go in there and look at a lot more components. We check for things like cracks and [degradation] over 500 hours, [as well as items] that may need to be replaced."

Aircraft are sent to the phase hangar at every 500 and 1,000 hour mark, for phase one and phase two inspections, respectively.

"There are two different types of phase inspections," said Senior Airman Dustin Brewer, 23d EMS crew chief. "A phase one is usually in here for nine days, and a phase two is usually in here for 11 days.

"Phase one is pretty simple, there's no [test] flight we have to pass," said Brewer. "Phase two [is more complex] though. We take more stuff out and we have to fix more things."

Phase two inspections include oil and filter changes, as well as inspections on critical systems such as the steering unit.

"Because of certain components being worked, removed or installed, we have to do a functional check flight which only certain pilots are qualified to do," said Holt.

In addition to scheduled inspections, the phase hangar also takes care of delayed discrepancies.

"Delayed discrepancies are things that they find wrong [with the aircraft] on the flightline that doesn't affect safety of flight," said Holt. "If it's hard to get parts in on time, or the labor to fix the discrepancy would have the aircraft down for more time than they deem acceptable, that kind of stuff rolls into the phase. That way we can not only inspect the aircraft more in-depth, but we can also fix things that build up over time."

It takes a large team of Airmen to complete maintenance of this magnitude which Holt says is accomplished by in-house crew chiefs and avionics troops, with help from specialized maintenance flights.

"We coordinate with crash recovery, electrical and environmental, the engine shop, the fuels shop, the armament shop, non-destructive inspection, sheet metal and egress systems," explained Holt. "Those shops are out here for each aircraft. We're primarily supported by the equipment maintenance squadron and the component maintenance squadron with a bit of help from the aircraft maintenance units as well."

Involvement from so many different shops is a balancing act, Holt says. "We have to walk the line between getting everyone [time to work] on the plane without getting in each other's way, and then getting it all done within eight to 10 days."

As an added challenge, the phase hangar maintains a high ops-tempo maintaining two A-10Cs at a time.

"Ideally you'd like a week between aircraft," said Holt. "That way we can restock and get all the supplies in order to do the next plane. Unfortunately we usually don't get that, so we restock as we go.

"We definitely stay busy, but we want to give the flightline back a 'as close to perfect' airplane as possible," Holt said.

Brewer says that it's tough work, but ultimately, it's rewarding.

"I like getting dirty, and working with my hands," Brewer said. "I love tearing apart a plane and putting it back together, just seeing how things work."