March 29, 2016 (by SrA David Owsianka) - The aircraft at Yokota and Kadena air bases in Japan rely on the 374th Maintenance Squadron’s phase docks to receive their maintenance and keep them going.
An MC-130 Talon II, from Kadena AB, sits in the phase docks to be repaired at Yokota AB on February 19, 2016. [USAF photo by SrA David Owsianka]
Every 540 days, a C-130 Hercules or MC-130 Talon II enters the phase docks for an inspection and repairs. During the 14- to 16-day process, Airmen inspect the aircraft and fix any potential discrepancies.
"We take care of the overall health of the aircraft by providing preventative maintenance to make sure it's a safe product when it goes out to the flightline," said Senior Master Sgt. James Herron, the 374th MXS flight chief. "What we do is crucial for the aircraft because we fix all of the delayed discrepancies that build up and are unable to be fixed by the flightline personnel."
When an aircraft is inspected, it goes through a process that is split into four phases: look phase, fix phase, qualified phase and quality assurance phase. Throughout each phase, the Airmen use work cards, or lists of inspection procedures to follow and check, to ensure everything is done correctly and safely.
First, the crew goes through a look phase during the initial part of the inspection. Technicians take panels off of the aircraft and search for any discrepancies.
The fix phase is when the technicians repair the inconsistencies. In the qualified phase, dock members inspect the completed work and provide extra maintenance work where necessary.
Finally, members of a quality assurance team perform a final inspection of the aircraft to ensure everything is correct.
Once the four phases are completed, the phase dock crew reattaches the panels to the aircraft, conducts the final engine runs and complete any final checks.
As the flight goes through the process, they rely on the other flights within the MXS to complete their mission.
The aerospace ground equipment flight provides them with various support equipment such as stands, jacks or nitrogen carts to service the aircraft. The precision maintenance equipment laboratory provides calibrated equipment such as torch wrenches and pressure gages to ensure the aircraft parts are precisely measured. The propulsion flight provides spare engines to the aircraft and personnel to help with the inspection process. The munitions flight handles the countermeasure flares on the aircraft to ensure the members can safely work on the aircraft.
"Without all of the flights working together, the job wouldn't get done because we wouldn't have the necessary equipment or personnel to support the aircraft," said Airman 1st Class James Madson, a 374th MXS isochronal inspection crew chief.
The members of the maintenance flight said they gain a sense of pride from watching the plane arrive in their hangar to performing extensive maintenance to sending the C-130s back to the flightline.
"Being able to see an aircraft take off and come back safely, and then I know that we have done our job, there is no better reward than that," Herron said.
Providing in-depth maintenance on the aircraft ensures that Yokota's mission of generating a professional airlift throughout the region is not impacted.