Story and Photos by
Sgt. Daniel Schroeder
25th Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs, 25th Infantry Division
FORWARD OPERATING BASE WOLVERINE, Afghanistan — In order to maintain operational readiness, the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, ensures all its equipment is serviced within the proper guidelines to provide security for Soldiers on the ground.
For Soldiers of Company D, 2nd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, 25th CAB, the equipment they service is not computers or vehicles, but UH-60 Black Hawk and AH-64 Apache helicopters.
These services are called preventative maintenance inspections, more commonly referred to as phase maintenance. During phase maintenance, the aircraft is systematically broken down into sections, and each part is inspected for cleanliness and condition by the PMI manual.
“Our mission is to find any problems with the aircraft, repair them and push out a bird (helicopter) as close to new conditions as possible,” said Sgt. Phillip Dowdy, a UH-60 Black Hawk mechanic with Co. D, 2nd Bn., 25th Avn. Regt., 25th CAB.
“There is something new to be learned each phase,” Dowdy said. “Each individual inspection helps us to learn about each part.”
When an aircraft is received for phase maintenance, a team of Soldiers begins the break down.
“We have 10 UH-60 crew chiefs and 10 mechanics from our support shop made up of avionics, sheet metal, power train and power plant technicians,” Dowdy said. “We brought some new Soldiers with us, fresh from the schoolhouse. Each of us has gained a lot of experience from the nine PMIs completed since arriving here.”
Phase maintenance is based off the amount of flight hours the aircraft has had since the time it was built or after its last phase maintenance session. Two time periods are used for PMIs conducted for UH-60s. The first is at 360 flight hours and usually lasts for seven days; the second is at 720 flight hours and lasts for roughly 14 days due to the extensive tear down and inspection.
“We note the deficiencies when we come across them in our inspections,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 William Rector, production control officer in charge, Co. D, 2n Bn., 25th Avn. Regt., 25th CAB.
“Of those deficiencies, we remove, repair and replace anything we can down to the smallest nut and bolt, rivets and cracks in the airframe,” Rector added. “Every inch of the rotor blades is inspected.”
In the past nine years, the UH-60s have gone from receiving phase maintenance once every 500 flight hours to 360-flight-hour interval inspections. Also, before the aircraft goes in for phase, two 120-flight-hour inspections are conducted by the line companies.
During the deployment rotation, the phase teams will continue to perform PMI 1 and 2 until it is the aircraft’s time to be shipped back to the U.S., where it will undergo a reset and receive a complete overhaul.
“Each time we perform a phase, we challenge ourselves to see how clean we can get the aircraft,” Dowdy said. “It is a great feeling to watch the helicopter fly on a test flight and return safely with no issues, which lets us know we gave the line companies a good product.”