Greetings from the flight line here at Pope Army Airfield. The Aviation Detachment continues supporting the absolute best paratroopers in the world. We have two air shows under our belt for the 2014 season having recently completed the show at Travis Air Force Base, CA, and returning today from Lakehurst, NJ. Of course we continue supporting local demonstrations and outreach projects to further connect the American People with America’s Army.
Many members of the public fly on commercial and public use aircraft but rarely have the opportunity to look at the maintenance that goes into keeping the fleet in top notch condition.
Both C-31 aircraft operated by the United States Army Parachute Team were acquired in 1985 and are pushing 30 years of service. Both aircraft have in excess of 14,500 hours of total use thus far and over 15,000 landings. These aircraft have a life span limited to 90,000 landings, and although they are technically in their infancy with regards to their service life, the rapid retirement of F27 from commercial use worldwide make the supply chain for spare parts a limited resource. With 15,000 landings thus far, inspection of the landing gear system is a continuing process that we trust to our maintenance partners of Kay and Associates. Below is a picture of the left side of the aircraft with the jack stand fully supporting a third of the total weight of around 28,000 pounds.
Placing an aircraft on jacks requires maintenance professionals who are experts in the procedures. Kay and Associates, as the team contract maintainers have a team of experts who have worked on this aircraft since it arrived at the team in 1985. Testing the landing gear is a routine procedure for these professionals but the same level of attention to the procedure is given each and every time. In the picture below, one mechanic observes cockpit indications while two additional mechanics check and recheck systems before the landing gear is brought to the up position during testing.
Typically, the aircraft weighs in excess of 42,000 pounds when fully loaded and departing for an air show. While taxing, pilots use a small wheel located near each pilots knee that functions much like a car steering wheel. Prior to take off, the crew unlocks the flight controls and the copilot maintains control of the yoke and the pilot flying steers the airplane down the runway using a combination of rudder and the nose wheel steering. At 60 knots of airspeed, the pilot flying takes control of the aircraft from the copilot effecting a smooth transition from the runway to powered flight. Flying the Fokker is a delicate balance of technique and crew coordination.