In Every Clime and Place
By Staff Sgt. Shane Hughes, 180th Fighter Wing, Ohio Air National Guard
/ Published March 09, 2016
ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- The deafening roar of jet engines drowned out all other sounds as aircraft rocketed down the runway at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam during exercise Cope North. As soon as all the jets had launched, the engines of generators grumbled to life and Airmen from the 112th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron rushed around the flight line to perform maintenance on the F-16 Fighting Falcons that remained.
During the course of the exercise, which took place from Feb. 10 through 26, the maintenance crews of the 112th EFS faced a variety of challenges caused by the humidity and high salt content of the air in Guam.
Capt. Matthew Stake, the assistant officer-in-charge for the Aircraft Maintenance Unit assigned to the 112th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, said the transition from a cold, dry climate to a hot, humid climate was the cause of the first challenges to develop, which were issues with the Environmental Control System. The ECS was creating too much condensation, which was filling one of the filters. The condensation can block airflow or freeze, resulting in overheating and damaged components.
The maintenance teams worked with the pilots to solve the issue by reducing the power output on the ECS, reducing the amount of condensation entering the filter.
Another challenge was the increased risk of corrosion due to high humidity and elevated salt content in the air. One of the ways the maintenance crews worked to prevent corrosion was to increase the frequency with which they washed the Jets. Stake said the jets go through a clear-water rinse cycle every 15 days, which is a significant increase from the typical 120 day rinse cycle at home-station.
"We're aggressive in our corrosion control practices to minimize the possibility of corrosion occurring," said Chief Master Sgt. James Duty, AMU superintendent with the 112th EFS. "We take extra measures here to enhance the life-cycle of our aircraft."
Master Sgt. Jeff Cobb, an aircraft mechanic with the 112th EFS, said working outside presented difficulties for the maintenance teams as well. The added noise from the extra aircraft on the flight line during the exercise made it difficult to hear. He also said the grey-colored concrete presented challenges. Normally, when not deployed, maintenance would be performed inside the hangar at the 180th Fighter Wing in Swanton, Ohio.
"The floor of the hangar at home is white and there generally isn't a lot of noise when maintenance is being performed. So, if you happen to drop a screw, you hear it hit the ground and you can find it really quick because it stands out against the white floor. On the flight line here, there's so much noise you can't hear it if you drop a screw, and when you've dropped one, it can be really hard to find because it blends in so well with the concrete."
Screws and other small objects can be pulled into the air intake and damage the engine. Cobb said it is critical to ensure no debris is on the flight line as a form of preemptive maintenance.
Maj. Seth Carmody said Airmen with the 112th are doing an amazing job at following the established maintenance procedures, reducing the frequency of maintenance issues and keeping the aircraft in the fight.
"The enlisted leadership has done a great job handling these issues at the lowest levels," Carmody said. "It's a great example of how the Air Force should operate."
"Our maintenance crews are world-class," said Lt. Col. Michael DiDio, commander of the 112th EFS. "They take pride in what they do, they keep the jets ready to go, and the pilots always know we are going to get a good aircraft in the air whenever we step out to the flight line."