Texas facility returns damaged helicopters to flight

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Posted: Wednesday, November 7, 2012 1:50 pm

In 1989, Killeen Aviation Field Maintenance Activity began performing aircraft maintenance support and extensive structural repairs on newly fielded AH-64s that were damaged in what was known as "The Mother’s Day Massacre" – a microburst that seriously damaged many aircraft that were assigned to Fort Hood, Texas, tearing them from their moorings, rolling them over and smashing them into one another.

Soon after this unfortunate weather event, the first Gulf War broke out. Killeen AFMA worked to apply modifications to Army helicopters bound for service in the hostile Gulf War environment and later served as a Special Technical Inspection and Repair facility performing Reset activities as mandated by the Army for aircraft returning from combat operations. These Reset activities rapidly expanded to nearby Fort Hood and Temple, Texas, as well as other locations.

The primary focus at Killeen AFMA today is the OH-58 Kiowa Warrior – an airframe that has the highest in-theater op-tempo, with good examples being coveted by their owning units. Killeen AFMA is repairing crashed, battle damaged and fatigued OH-58’s in a quiet, consistent manner that belies their extreme commitment to excellence and can-do approach that sets them apart as a preeminent maintenance and repair facility.

A large number of crashed and battle damaged Kiowas are sent to Killeen AFMA where above AVIM repairs are carried out to bring these inoperable aircraft back to flying condition. In many cases a dynamic alignment fixture is utilized to ensure components align on the airframe as damaged structural beams and outer skins are replaced. CAT-B training aircraft from Fort Eustis, Va., have been converted into CAT-A combat ready aircraft at Killeen AFMA. By converting these maintenance training aircraft into combat ready aircraft and repairing formerly crashed or battle damaged aircraft, Killeen AFMA has used its deep knowledge and extremely skilled labor force to replenish the once depleted mission capable pool of Kiowa Warriors.

An OH-58 Reset program is executed at Killeen AFMA with up to six aircraft in work at a time, yielding more than 100 completions to date. Reset is performed on OH-58s at Fort Hood and Fort Bragg, N.C., as well, but when major repairs are needed and an alignment fixture is required, these aircraft are usually sent to Killeen AFMA. Once these extensive repairs are made, the rest of the Reset process is completed at Killeen, making the aircraft fully mission capable. When sending aircraft to Killeen is not a viable option based on completion schedule or the inability to move the aircraft, repair teams from Killeen AFMA have been dispatched to helicopter maintenance sites throughout the Southeast and Central United States.

Modification Work Orders are also applied to OH-58s at Killeen AFMA, providing the upgrades and changes mandated by the program management office with the added benefit of configuration control for the fleet. Validation and Verification of MWOs for OH-58s have also been completed at Killeen AFMA. This effort assures MWO kits, instructions and installations are packaged and executed correctly so future installations go smoothly. A highly coordinated effort between the PMOs, Killeen AFMA and AMCOM assure MWO kits and personnel are on station to install the latest aircraft modifications. MWO teams from Killeen AFMA have supported and applied modifications to Apaches, Chinooks and Black Hawks throughout the United States.

Similar to Reset, Preset is being performed on training aircraft that have not seen action overseas. Many deficiencies requiring extensive structural repairs have been discovered during this much needed process. Cabin roof and main center beam replacements, oil cooler deck replacements, lower tub, longeron and various outer skin replacements have been needed to make these aircraft suitable for future training and combat missions. To date, 13 of 25 OH-58s from Fort Rucker have gone through Preset. Killeen AFMA is the exclusive site for this deep technical inspection, repair and repaint program.

OH-58 main rotor blade triage is an example of how Killeen AFMA is saving money and keeping vital main rotor blades in stock. Killeen AFMA determines the level of repair required of red tagged blades from theater, repairing or condemning the vast majority and sending a small percentage back to Corpus Christi Army Depot for higher level repair. A complete blade repair shop at Killeen AFMA takes on most of the repairs needed, increasing the number of blades in the system – saving time and money. All types of main rotor blades are inspected and repaired as part of Reset activities at this facility as well.

Since 1991, OH-58 Standpipes have been repaired at Killeen AFMA; at times serving as the only maintenance activity in the Army performing this difficult repair process. The Standpipe conduit that ties the Mast Mount Sight into the aircraft’s avionics and weapons systems is extricated during the Reset or Preset process. It is an excellent time to repair the item as it is rarely taken out of the aircraft during routine maintenance inspections. Approximately 120 Standpipes are triaged and repaired at Killeen annually – saving about $2 million a year.

Killeen AFMA fabricates a lot of repair parts that are not available in the supply system or that have extremely long estimated shipping dates from the OEM, which does not support the mission schedule. Almost any structural component for an OH-58 can be fabricated by the skilled artisans at Killeen AFMA; for example, cabin main center beams are a specialty. These often hard to source items have been fabricated at Killeen AFMA for many years, keeping aircraft in the repair process and reducing non-production time spent waiting on these long lead time, critical structural components. Approximately 40 OH-58 main center beams have been replaced since February 2008. Upper cabin roof replacements also stand out as a Major Maintenance Event at Killeen AFMA. More than 60 roof replacements have been completed to date. Longeron cracks have been found on several 58s in Reset or Preset and Killeen AFMA personnel have been proactive in helping develop an ASAM for inspections within the Kiowa community. In the future, this may help determine if longeron cracks are a systemic issue. In short, Killeen AFMA has the ability to fabricate, heat treat and install most any structural component on the OH-58.

Numerous OH-58 related programs and initiatives have been undertaken by Killeen AFMA, resulting in extended sustainment and better quality aircraft for the war fighter. It should be noted that many other airframes have also been supported over the years as Killeen AFMA has been a go-to source for a myriad of repairs, fabrication of parts, training equipment and holding fixtures. Killeen AFMA falls under AMCOM and the Aviation Field Maintenance Directorate. Its work force is comprised of a handful of government personnel with oversight of approximately 250 contractors. As the future comes into focus, Killeen AFMA’s activities will be combined with operations at Fort Hood (Directorate of Logistics), increasing capabilities, enhancing efficiencies, streamlining management and providing a centralized source of maintenance for a range of customers – from CABs to foreign militaries.

Editor’s note: Mitch Delk works in the AMCOM Aviation Field Maintenance Directorate/AMCOM Logistics Center, Strategic Integration Office.

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