Fort Bliss aviation Soldiers keep helicopters mission-ready in Afghanistan
POSTED: Friday, August 23, 2013 - 7:18pm
UPDATED: Friday, August 23, 2013 - 7:20pm
NANGARHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan — A platoon of AH-64 Apache maintainers from Company D, 1st Attack/Reconnaissance Battalion, 501st Aviation Regiment, Task Force Dragon, based at Jalalabad Airfield, Afghanistan, conducts 500-hour phase maintenance inspections to keep the fleet of choppers mission-ready, and the pilots who fly them, safe. In addition, the platoon also conducts 125-hour and 250-hour phase maintenance inspections, maintaining combat readiness and the highest safety standards.
“A 500-hour phase is a requirement to help identify discrepancies you can’t see with the naked eye,” said Staff Sgt. Pedro Gonzales, a phase-team leader assigned to Co. D, 1-501st Avn. Regt., TF Dragon.
The inspection is basically an overhaul of the helo conducted after every 500 hours of the aircraft’s flight time. It consists of breaking down the major components such as the two engines, the rotor head, the transmission and the gear boxes. There is a long list of inspections that must be done along with the breakdown of the Apache to ensure the components are within tolerance.
Once a phase maintenance inspection is scheduled, the maintenance platoon sergeant ensures his shop is properly set up and the necessary resources are available.
“I make sure that we have parts that we will need and parts that we might need on hand about two weeks prior to starting a phase,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jose Cadengo, Co. D, 1-501st Avn. Regt., TF Dragon, maintenance platoon sergeant. Cadengo said the required time to complete a 500-hour phase inspection in theater is 14 days, but can be accomplished in less. It varies on how many repairs the aircraft needs.
After the breakdown of all the major components and the long list of inspections that have to be done, the Apache is re-assembled. Safety is the number one concern throughout any maintenance – the safety of the Soldiers conducting the maintenance and the safety of the crews who fly the birds. During the re-assembly, it is very important Soldiers maintain 100 percent accountability of all their tools because a forgotten item could have catastrophic consequences.
Also, it is important Soldiers avoid wearing rings, watches, bracelets or anything loose to avoid injury. Cadengo ensures the Soldiers of Co. D exercise safety during all maintenance work.
“The Soldiers pull from each other’s knowledge,” Cadengo said. “I have seen all the new Soldiers that came straight from (Advanced Individual Training) do a full circle. I am very impressed. Watching the aircraft turn on and seeing the rotors spin and run properly gives all the Soldiers a sense of accomplishment and pride.”
Despite daily temperatures above 115 degrees Fahrenheit, the platoon has completed three 500-hour phase inspections.