BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. --
Airmen can be seen crawling like ants over, under and around a B-52 Stratofortress with “MT” on the tail tucked in a hangar on Barksdale Air Force Base, La. These busy workers are Reserve Citizen Airmen from the 307th Maintenance Squadron. They are lending a hand by performing the phase inspection of a B-52 from Minot Air Force Base, N.D. This is the second time that the maintainers from the 307th have performed a phase on a Minot B-52.
The 2nd Bomb Wing took possession of the Minot aircraft, but ran into a scheduling problem with three aircraft due for phase inspections at the same time.
“We had the capacity to take on the extra work, so we agreed to perform the inspection for the active duty,” said Maj. George P. Cole III, the 307th Maintenance Squadron commander. “By taking on the phase inspection for the Minot aircraft, we're able to capitalize on valuable training for our traditional reservists while increasing aircraft availability for the B-52 enterprise.”
The phase is being completed by a combination of Reserve Citizen Airmen completing their annual tour alongside the full-time Air Reserve Technicians and Active Duty Airmen working under Total Force Integration (TFI).
“Inspections like this are key to keeping the B-52 operational and this phase is no different from any other phase,” Cole said. “We treat it like one of our own BUFFs when it's under our care, so we can be confident that the active duty are getting a quality product at the end of the day.”
The phase is an in-depth inspection required every 450 flying hours for a B-52. The Airmen inspect the plane from nose to tail for deficiencies as well as perform required preventative maintenance.
“It takes 19 different shops to complete a phase,” said Master Sgt. Russell D. Moyer, the Phase Dock controller assigned to the 307th Maintenance Squadron. “These shops range from the Repair and Reclamation Shop that covers the flight controls and main landing gear, to the Fuels Shop, Weapons Shop, and Non-Destructive Inspection. Even Supply has a role in completing the phase inspection.”
Each aircraft system from the fuel system to the hydraulic, electrical and weapons systems are checked and serviced. Worn out parts are replaced and leaks are fixed. Due to the size, weight and age of the bomber the structure is inspected for stress cracks that can be repaired once they are identified.
“We are averaging 25 days in phase, which is the time from the last day the plane flew to the day the plane is able to fly again,” said Moyer. “The time varies on each airplane and is contingent on what we find when we inspect the aircraft.”
One of the final steps of the phase inspection is to tow the bomber out to the flight line to perform an engine run of all eight Pratt and Whitney Turbofan Engines with the outer metal coverings removed to ensure each engine is operating properly and without leaks.
“Phase inspections are labor intensive, as we find and correct defects that could turn into bigger problems in the future,” said Cole. “By performing the phase on the Minot aircraft, we're saving the active duty hundreds of maintenance man hours.”
Those maintenance man hours are also training hours for the young Reserve Citizen Airmen as well as our young TFI Airmen, said Cole. The training they receive comes from highly experienced Reserve Citizen Airmen.
“We have seasoned Air Reserve Technicians with more than 20 years of experience on the plane,” said Moyer. “The knowledge that they bring to the table enables us to put out a good product.”
The Air Force Reserve is a combat-ready force of nearly 70,000 Reserve Citizen Airmen providing daily strategic depth and operational capability. They are a highly-experienced and cost-efficient force, and retain combat-proven Reserve Citizen Airmen for life.