by Tech. Sgt. Joseph Swafford
455th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
10/22/2015 - BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (AFNS -- Airmen
deployed from Aviano Air Base, Italy, and assigned to the 455th
Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron recently completed their 32nd F-16
Fighting Falcon phase inspection, ensuring the aircraft can complete the
combat airpower mission here.
Phase inspections are in-depth and accomplished upon accrual of a
specific number of flying hours -- in the F-16's case, every 400 hours.
"It's basically scheduled downtime for the aircraft to be inspected more
than the normal day-to-day operations would allow," said Master Sgt.
Aaron Lerding, a 455th EMXS maintenance flight chief. "There are 635
inspections items that are inspected with every Viper (F-16) phase. Just
in the same way that you must change your oil on your car every 3,000
miles and timing belt at scheduled intervals, the phase process is a
scheduled inspection that allows us to ensure safe, reliable airpower
every 400 flight hours."
Having the capability to complete phase inspections in a deployed environment helps the wing complete its air tasking order.
"Phase is the power house that sustains the ATO," said Maj. Megan
Murtishaw, the 455th EMXS commander. "Fighter aircraft have hourly
scheduled inspections and by having a phase dock deployed with the unit,
it allows for increased aircraft availability which ultimately gives us
more combat capability."
Having the capability here is nice but it doesn't come without its deployed challenges.
"Here we have five days to complete the 400-hour phase, whereas back at
home station we have nine days," said Senior Airman Kristina Manning, a
455th EMXS maintenance specialist. "We still have to complete everything
we do back home, just in a lot less time. Even though we have to get
everything done quicker it has to be done thoroughly, the jets here are
not just going out on a training mission but for combat missions."
The phase team, which also makes up the Crash, Disabled and Damaged
Aircraft Recovery team, had to respond to all in-flight and ground
emergencies, Lerding said.
"Often times they would have to drop their tools while working or stop
operational checkouts to respond," he said. "Additionally, we also built
all F-16 wheel and tire assemblies totaling over 310, which is 300
times the normal rate."
Despite these challenges, the team was still able to complete the 32
phase inspections, which were 33 percent more than the previous two
rotations with the same amount of manning.
"They're exceptional maintainers who also looked for ways to make things
better," Murtishaw said. "They changed the flow of the maintenance
completed during phases to help meet the required timeline. They also
implemented a new process where everything is digital during the phase,
saving hours on the back end to review forms."
Seeing the jets have an impact on the mission here was a rewarding experience for the phase inspection maintainers.
"It's great to see the jets that we have completed phase on come back
after dropping bombs without having any issues," Manning said. "It's
amazing to know that we contributed to the jet having 400 more hours of
flight time to complete the mission."