167th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
3/10/2015 - MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- The 167th Airlift Wing's regional isochronal inspection mission here came to an end March 6 with the conclusion of its final Air Force C-5 Galaxy aircraft inspection.
The wing had successfully served as one of the Air Force's three regional isochronal inspection hubs for more than eight years since the mission was announced in December 2006.
An isochronal inspection is an extensive examination and maintenance of an entire airframe and systems that seek to increase the overall performance and safety of the aircraft. The regional hub program was launched in 2007 to improve the mission capabilities of the Air Force's C-5 fleet.
"It's setup as preventative maintenance," said Master Sgt. Harry Sinex, a 167th isochronal coordinator. "Every aircraft is required to undergo an inspection every 420 days."
There are three different levels of isochronal inspections; minor, major and depot. Each level of inspection is more extensive than the last and requires more of the plane to be taken apart. As a minor hub, the 167th isochronal team, which was made up of most of the 167th Maintenance Group, had roughly 2,500 tasks that had to be done for each aircraft during the inspection.
"A task is just a basic write up that said what we had to do," said Sinex. "Each task has multiple parts and sub tasks that need to be accomplished. Total, there are more like 10,000 items that need to be accomplished for each inspection."
The team fixed any items that they found on the checklist that needed to be repaired if it could be done at a local level. In addition to the items on the inspection list, the isochronal team frequently went above and beyond, repairing items that they noticed during the inspection, but were not part of the official inspection.
When the wing first received the regional isochronal mission, the Maintenance Group was still new to the C-5 and its systems. While they had performed isochronal inspections on the smaller Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft, the C-5 inspection process required more manpower and was more indepth.
"We started this process from scratch," said Master Sgt. James Buckley, a 167th isochronal coordinator. "We only had the C-5s for about a year when we received the regional isochronal mission. We didn't really have the right stands or tools that we needed at first, we had to build all of that up ourselves with a small group of people."
The C-5 regional isochronal program was the first of its kind in the Air Force and was still being worked out when the wing received the mission. Early on, the team worked with its counterparts from the other two regional hubs at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, and the Westover Air Reserve Base, Massachusetts, to develop and streamline the process, while also implementing their own variation to the inspection program.
"From the beginning, we were determined to have a paperless process," Sinex said. "We were also able to save a lot of money by fixing things locally and building our own parts if we could."
During the eight years as one of the regional hubs, the 167th team performed at a high level, often with less manpower than they were authorized. Even at the peak of their manning, the Maintenance Group was well short of the 120 slots allotted to them for isochronal inspections, including the contingent of active duty Airmen that were assigned to the wing to assist with the regional program.
Despite this, the inspection team averaged a 39-day isochronal inspection cycle per aircraft. In total, the team serviced 63 aircraft from eight different bases, counting the 167th.
While their average total inspection time was more than the other two isochronal hubs, when manpower is taken into account, the wing was hitting similar marks as their counter parts, Sinex said.
As the Air Force transitions to a leaner fleet, cut backs mean that many of the older C-5s are being retired, decreasing the maintenance demand for the airframe. Due to this decrease, the regional isochronal inspection mission has come to an end as the 167th transitions away from the C-5 to the Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft.
Though the C-17 doesn't currently require an isochronal inspection, the Maintenance Group has already seen the effect of their experience on their ability to work with the C-17, Buckley said.
"Our first home station check, which is a less extensive inspection for the C-17, we got done in nine work days," Buckley said. "The other bases that we have been in contact with have taken double that time for their first [home station check]. We are hitting numbers in our first [home station checks] that bases that have been in the C-17 business for three years are just now hitting. That's all because of the expertise we gained from building our own regionalized [isochronal] process."
While the Maintenance Group worked closely on the Regional Isochronal Inspection Program, it wouldn't have been possible without all of the other shops on base that contributed to the process, especially the Logistical Readiness Squadron who ordered and coordinated all the parts needed for repairs, Buckley said.