Maintenance Series Part Two

It’s been a busy two weeks with no rest in sight for the maintainers and aircrews of Team Six.  The Fokker Ambassador and Excalibur performed simultaneous shows supporting Black and Gold demonstration teams at Jones Beach, NY, Cape Girardeau, MO. and Salute to Veterans, Columbia, Mo.  Black Team and the supporting aircrew had the opportunity to perform in front of record crowds at Jones Beach, while Gold team wowed audiences in MO and jumped into a parade for Memorial Day.

As part two of our three part maintenance series, I’d like to share with our fans our process of identifying maintenance faults on aircraft while on the road and what our skilled mechanics do to keep our fleet in a high level of readiness as the air show season rolls along.

The first part of every successful flight is a thorough check of the weather, aircraft records, weight of our passengers, and all other items deemed necessary to ensure the flight is completed in a safe and economical manner.

During the trip to Jones Beach, NY, the Fokker “Ambassador” developed a fuel seep that was identified by a very small amount of fuel on the underside of one of Ambassador’s wings.  After checking maintenance logs and procedures, the crew of Ambassador determined that the mission could still be conducted and the maintenance was deferred until Ambassador returned to Pope Army Air Field.

The C-31 has what is commonly known as a “Wet Wing”.  Aircraft generally carry fuel in the wings and do this by utilizing either a rubber bladder consisting of several interconnected cells, or in the case of the Ambassador, a wet wing which has no internal containment system to hold all 9200lbs of fuel; that is to say, when fuel is loaded onto the C-31, it is contained only by the metal skin of the aircraft.  As one can imagine, wet wings can develop leaks if inspection and access panels are not properly sealed or if a seal breaks down over time under normal use.

Repairing a leak in the wet wing of Ambassador turned out to be a time consuming process that could only be entrusted to our maintenance partners of Kay and Associates.  The first step in repairing our leak was to defuel the aircraft.  This is a time consuming process requiring a fuel truck to reverse its pumps and empty out all 1300 gallons of fuel.  The pictures below show the required removal,repair, and reinstallation of the access panels that are located in the underside of each wing.

The underside of the left wing of the  Ambassador.  Notice three wet bay access panels removed for servicing.

The underside of the left wing of the Ambassador. Notice three wet bay access panels removed for servicing.

Jimmie Carrier installs rubber seals to one of the wet bay access panels.  This is a time consuming task that requires the highest attention to detail.

Jimmie Carrier installs rubber seals to one of the wet bay access panels. This is a time consuming task that requires the highest attention to detail.

This picture shows one of the fuel inspection panels with a portion of the fuel measuring system that transmits fuel levels to the cockpit.

This picture shows one of the fuel inspection panels with a portion of the fuel measuring system that transmits fuel levels to the cockpit.

Michael Moore removes an inspection panel under the wing.

Michael Moore removes an inspection panel under the wing.

 

 

 

Team Six Leads The Way

  SSG Adrian Hill Exits, While Firebirds Fly Along our C-31's Wing TipsGreetings 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.

  This week we decided to snap a few pictures of the maintenance checks being performed on the C-31 Fokker, tail number 607 affectionately known as “Excalibur”.Excaliber

 

 

 

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.jack

 

 

 

  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.

gearcheck  Excalibur gets new shoes and a close inspection of the nose gear. 

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.

 

 

 Jackstand All aircraft are maintained according to factory specifications.  The US Army Parachute Team operates the only C-31 (Fokker F27) aircraft in the United States.  Aircraft of this type and design were used for many years by FedEx, Piedmont Airlines, and others as reliable commuter and freight carrying aircraft.

 

 

Team Six

Golden Knights Annual Certification Cycle Hawk streamers Battise documentation Bovee Hackett,Flynn JonesWatts MAJ Costin

 

 

 

 

 

Fokker5x7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With March on the horizon and only one month left in our Annual Certification Cycle, Team Six continues to rack up the safe flight hours and total lifts to altitude supporting all of the Golden Knights demonstrators.

Things have been very exciting here in Homestead!  We conducted night operations on the 13th beginning at 0100 and jumping through sunrise.  Jumping at night is always very exciting as we get to watch the demonstrators leave our aircraft into the dark of night and ignite pyrotechnics as they fall through the sky. 

We were visited by the former Team Six Commander, MAJ Craig Blackwood last week .   It is always good to have Golden Knight alums that stop in and check on us and continue to show their steadfast support. 

DAC Ken Breeden and CIV Frank Reiner of our maintenance team departed this week to pick up our newly painted C-31 Troopship 607.  The paint looks great and with a fresh maintenance overhaul and we look forward to placing her back into service for the upcoming show season.  Speaking of the C-31 Troopship; our detachment as part of the total team voted on various names to paint onto the C-31’s that will remain with those aircraft through their retirement.  The final names have not been released yet, but look for the names on the side of our aircraft as we stop through your town this year.

Our pilots and crewchiefs received their tentative show slating this week and know which teams they will support for the year and which shows they will participate in.  Signing up for shows is a process our team carries out each year and generally pilots and crew members get to travel to their hometowns if those shows are scheduled.  Even the most senior pilots get the gleam in their eye when the show schedule is released!   It’s a proud moment when our new pilots and crewmembers see their name next to a schedule show.

CW4 Jason Davis and CW3 David Burns redeployed to Fort Bragg to support the men and women’s competition teams in their workups for upcoming competitions.  The weather in February can be a challenge for jumping in North Carolina, but the pilots and competitors are putting in long days when the weather permits.

Finally, we welcomed a new crewchief, SGT Broderick DeArmas, to our team.  He comes to us from the 82d Combat Aviation Brigade where he worked in the Aviation Intermediate Maintenance facility. 

Until next time; Blue Skies!

 

Golden Knights Annual Certification Cycle

 

Black Team Demonstrator SSG Rese Pendelton ask’s What is is?

 

"GOT YOUR 6"

“GOT YOUR 6″

 

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