NANGARHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – A platoon of AH-64 Apache maintainers from D Company, 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 Apache helicopters mission-ready, and the pilots who fly them, safe. In addition, the platoon also conducts 125-hour and 250-hour phase maintenance inspections, all which help maintain 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 U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Pedro Gonzales, a phase-team leader assigned to D Co., 1-501st Avn. Regt., TF Dragon.
The 500-hour phase inspection is basically an overhaul of the Apache 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 of the helicopter are within tolerance.
Once a phase maintenance inspection is scheduled, the maintenance platoon sergeant ensures that his shop is properly set up and that necessary resources are on hand so there are no delays.
“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, D Co., 1-501st Avn. Regt., TF Dragon, maintenance platoon sergeant. Cadengo added that the required time to complete a 500-hour phase inspection in theater is 14 days, but can be accomplished in less. It all varies on how many repairs the aircraft might need.
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 working on the aircraft and the safety of the crews flying the aircraft. During the re-assembly, it is very important soldiers working on the aircraft maintain 100 percent accountability of all their tools since a forgotten item could have catastrophic consequences. Also, it is important that soldiers avoid wearing rings, watches, bracelets, or anything loose. These items can get caught which can lead to injury. Cadengo makes sure the soldiers of D Co. exercise safety in every maintenance job that comes to them.
“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 temperatures above 115 degrees Fahrenheit daily, the platoon has completed three 500-hour phase inspections this summer.