News: Airframe Marines ensure fine flight for Wolf Pack
Story by Lance Cpl. Christopher Johns
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif. -- The CH-53E Super Stallion flies missions all over the world and can carry more than 26,000 pounds. The helicopter is compact enough to deploy on amphibious assault ships, and has the fire power, speed and agility to do more than heavy lifting.
One of the major reasons this war machine can stay aloft is the Marine airframe mechanics who provide necessary maintenance and upkeep.
“Airframe mechanics fix anything hydraulically or structurally necessary for the aircraft to fly,” said Sgt. Bradley Trogdon, a Super Stallion quality assurance representative with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 466 ‘Wolf Pack’ and a Winston Salem, N.C., native. “Anything that moves on the aircraft we fix and maintain. We adjust the drop-out switches for the engines, ensuring the cowling that protects the rest of the aircraft from engine fires is free of cracks or damage.”
Marines training to become airframes technicians attend initial schooling in Pensacola, Fla., which lasts three months, then to continue training for the specific aircraft they will maintain – in this case, rotary wing aircraft.
“Once we get to the fleet we kind of hit the ground running,” said Cpl. Dane Steward, an airframe mechanic with the Wolf Pack and a Plains, Mont., native. “After we get accustomed to the fast pace of the shop, we start working on extra training to earn qualifications.”
There are up to 23 different qualifications, from changing a tire without supervision, to fixing the cowling so the aircraft can fly safely. Each qualification requires performing the task supervised until the Marine is tested on what he needs to do, according to Trogdon.
Even after completing qualifications for the aircrafts’ many different components, Marines must still have their work checked over by more experienced mechanics.
“Sometimes a Marine might not catch a mistake or may miss something on the aircraft, so it helps to have a more experienced pair of eyes to look at their work – that’s where I come in,” said Trogdon. “I [as a quality assurance representative] check everything they do to ensure the aircraft can fly. I’m the last line of defense before the aircraft flies to ensure it is good to go.”
These mechanics face a variety of risks in their daily environment.
“It can be dangerous out there if you aren’t thinking,” said Steward. “The flight line here isn’t like Afghanistan or Iraq, but it’s still dangerous. There are a lot of moving parts on the aircraft, like the swash plates that oscillate up and down. If you have a Marine in there cleaning, he could easily be crushed because someone in the cockpit doesn’t know they are up there and the ground crew isn’t watching. These cases are things we try to keep from happening.”
An airframe mechanic’s job is not one to be overlooked or forgotten – airframe Marines could save lives.
“People’s lives depend on my job,” said Steward. “Pilots, crew chiefs and personnel inside the aircraft trust you to correctly perform your job.”
Date Posted:09.07.2012 18:52
Location:MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, CA, US
Hometown:HAMMOND, LA, US
Hometown:NEW YORK, NY, US
Hometown:NORTH SMITHFIELD, RI, US
Hometown:SAN DIEGO, CA, US
Hometown:WINSTON SALEM, NC, US