News: Phase maintenance ensures aircrafts remain battle ready
Story by Sgt. Alun Thomas
CAMP TAJI, Iraq — While maintaining a constant presence in the skies to keep the local population safe from the threat of attacks from insurgents and criminals, aircraft of the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade become well worn in the process.
To ensure aircraft remain in appropriate condition to continue their tireless missions, conducting phase maintenance is essential to make sure every part of the aircraft is in working order, a job which can be time consuming and strenuous.
This mission is an essential task for Soldiers of Company B, 615th Aviation Support Battalion, 1st ACB, 1st Cavalry Division, Multi-National Division-Baghdad, who recently began 500 hours phase maintenance on a AH-64D Apache helicopter to help put the aircraft where it belongs — back in the skies.
The maintenance begins when the aircraft is received from the owning unit, who briefs Co. B on any major components on the aircraft that require an overhaul or replacement, said Sgt. Jona Cacdac, from Merced, Calif., phase team leader, Co. B, 615th ASB, 1st ACB.
"They give us a list of maintenance faults we need to complete and then the aircraft usually comes in the next day," Cacdac said. "The owning unit should prep the aircraft for us, wash it and do inventories on their property."
Once the aircraft is received, technical inspectors perform checks to determine any other faults which may not have been picked up by the owning unit, Cacdac said.
"My guys [Co. B] would then start our tear down and take off all the panels and major components," Cacdac said. "The bird is then going to basically be stripped bare."
Every action taken during the maintenance must be accounted for, Cacdac said, with a log book kept to document them.
"I have to fix the books for our workstations so we can do our write-ups and let armament know that we removed the black boxes, the turret and all the display units," Cacdac added.
It takes two weeks for the aircraft to be stripped, inspected and worked on until it is ready to be moved outside again, Cacdac said.
"Once it's outside we slap on the blades and check the engine and tail rotor rigs to make sure they are properly working," Cacdac said. "We then phase the blades, do an angle check and look at the aircraft again. Our [technical inspectors] then go over it for any minor discrepancies."
The maintenance is extremely time consuming but with two crews working days and nights, the job is always done, Cacdac said.
Helping get the job done is Spc. Son Le, from Tomball, Texas, an Apache Longbow mechanic, 615th ASB, 1st ACB, who said the job his team does is more demanding than most people realize.
"A lot of people don't know how stressful it can get sometimes because you're dealing with a lot of moving parts," Le said. "People are moving up and down the aircraft all at one time."
The phase team undergoes a myriad of tasks to keep the aircraft in top condition, Le said.
"We remove the transmission, change out all the filters and make sure there are no cracks or overheating," Le said.
There are the odd problems the team runs into on a consistent basis, Le said.
"Sometimes there are a lot of showstoppers, like parts not being readily available and things like that," Le said. "The mission we are working on right now has been smooth and going pretty good."
It requires a team effort to complete the 500 hour maintenance, Le said, and it isn't one person who makes the difference.
"We have a lot of people working on this," Le said. "There's always someone to back you up with anything you need."