33rd HMU conducts 600-hour inspection
KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Imagine the shell of a classic car. Each door is taken off and every part of the interior removed. Each part of the vehicle endures cataloging and inspection before the vehicle comes back together restored. Just like that classic car, every time an HH-60G Pavehawk reaches 600 flight hours at Kadena Air Base, it has to be dismantled, inspected and then put back together to keep it in pristine condition.
During a phase inspection, the phase dock section of the 33rd Helicopter Maintenance Unit inspects every nook and cranny of the aircraft looking for damage, rust or corrosion.
“Phase dock is a 600-hour inspection,” said Tech. Sgt. Matthew Reihle, 33rd HMU phase dock section chief, “Just like a car with a gauge that measures mileage, when an aircraft takes off it starts a gauge for flight hours.”
Reihle said it can take from one to two years for a Pavehawk to reach 600 flight hours.
Maintainers remove 628 parts from the aircraft in order to access the 1,136 items that must be checked during this process. Once the parts are removed, any discrepancies found must be fixed to meet standards. The average phase inspection lasts 45 days, after which the aircraft is reassembled.
“Right now, we are 15 days into the phase inspection,” Reihle said. “So far we have found 1,321 discrepancies.”
The 33rd Rescue Squadron, which flies the aircraft, constantly train over the surrounding waters of the Pacific Ocean. According to Reihle, the humidity and saltwater surrounding Okinawa cause rust and corrosion.
“Our biggest challenge here is corrosion,” Reihle explained. “Unlike any other aircraft here on this base, we fly 10 to 30-feet above the ocean.”
During phase, teams of technicians assigned to specific sections of the aircraft disassemble the Pavehawk.
“We inspect each component in our section,” said Senior Airman Timothy Bolling, 33rd HMU HH-60G Pavehawk crew chief. “We change parts as needed or leave them if they will last until the next inspection.”
Bolling said nothing beats the feeling of completing a phase inspection.
“It’s a surreal feeling when we complete a phase inspection,” he said. “It’s rewarding to see it all come together after working on it for a long time.”
Over the 45 day period, more than 40 Airmen are scheduled to work on this aircraft. Of those Airmen, more than 20 belong to the phase dock.
“We pick our elite from the 33rd HMU for phase, we pick the people with the best qualifications and training.” said Reihle. “You want your best guys to be doing heavy maintenance, and they’re definitely the best we’ve got and they love it.”
Reihle said most of the HH-60G Pavehawks on Kadena Air Base are more than 20 years old. As maintainers, Reihle and the phase dock team work to ensure their flightline counterparts are able to accomplish their mission.
“We want to set them up for success and make sure that the aircraft is a quality product,” said Reihle. “Just like when a car is shipped out to be rebuilt, people want to have something that lasts and that is our main goal.”