33rd HMU HH-60G Pavehawk crew chief performs a 600-hour phase inspection
KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Imagine a classic car, each door is taken off and every part of the interior removed, nothing is left except for the shell. Every part of the vehicle is cataloged and inspected before it’s 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.
“We attempt to zero out the aircraft to the best of our ability,” said Tech. Sgt. Cory Lee, 33rd HMU phase dock flight chief. “We replace anything we have to, repair anything we can and then reassemble the aircraft.”
A 600-hour phase inspection also includes all of the prerequisite ones that HH-60 crew chiefs perform on the flight line, Lee explained.
“It also includes a 300-hour inspection, a 150-hour inspection, a 50-hour inspection and major time compliance technical orders with delayed discrepancies that may have accumulated over the 600 hours flown on the flight line,” he continued.
During the entire phase process maintainers remove more than 620 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 aviation safety standards. The average phase inspection lasts 45 days, after which the aircraft is reassembled.
The 33rd Rescue Squadron, which flies the aircraft, constantly trains over the surrounding waters of the Pacific Ocean and specialize in rescue operations. The 718th Air Craft Maintenance Squadron supports them by ensuring the aircraft they fly are safe and reliable.
“Phase is important because these birds are old,” said Staff Sgt. Paul Roberts, 33rd HMU HH-60G Pavehawk crew chief. “Over time, everything starts to wear out and needs to be replaced.”
According to Roberts, the salt water in the air can get into the tiniest of gaps and crevices, which causes rust.
“Most of the components and parts that we look at will not be inspected again for another 600 hours,” Lee said, “so, it is paramount that those are inspected by experts that are highly skilled.”
Over a 45-day period, more than 40 Airmen can work on this aircraft during phase inspection. After the phase inspection is complete and the aircraft is reassembled, it must go through a thorough a flight test by aircrew.
“Once the aircraft passes its functional flight check it is released from phase,” Lee said. “Hearing the engines startup, the rotors turn and watch it take off for the first time is a rewarding feeling. Nothing beats the feeling of watching a helicopter pass its function check the first time after phase.”