BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan --
The 455th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron phase inspection team inspects all F-16 Fighting Falcons here to ensure the aircraft are kept in a high level of readiness.
The phase inspection team is responsible for conducting in-depth inspections of F-16s after they reach 400 flying hours. The inspection last approximately five days and includes taking all panels off the aircraft, starting with the landing gear system, for a closer look at issues that may have been happened during the last few flying hours.
“From the time we receive the aircraft to the time we release it back to the flight line, we’re constantly working on the jet to make sure we don’t miss anything that could hinder the flying mission,” said Staff Sgt. William Hogarth, 455th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron tactical aircraft maintainer. “We start taking apart the panels piece by piece and we inspect it along the way.”
Throughout the phase inspection, the team completes scheduled inspections that are due and performs heavy maintenance looking for things that may not be found when the jet is on the flight line.
“The better lifeblood of the jet, the better the jet will fly; we find things that may get overlooked when the jet is on the flight line, so we do in depth checks on the landing gear as well as operational checks that involve all systems on the jet,” he said.
During the inspections, the team has many components to examine in a short amount of time. The team is split into a day shift and night shift with both teams constantly working on the jet to complete the inspection within the five day schedule.
“We have a small team, and in a deployed environment it’s much different than being back at home station. Here we have less people and were completing these inspections twice as fast,” Hogarth said. “The biggest challenge we face is maintaining the timeframe that we need to keep up with and making sure we are doing the inspection to the best of our ability and turn out a good product.”
Without the phase inspection team here, the jets wouldn’t be able to take off and complete the mission. Hogarth and his teams’ goal is to perform the inspection in a timely manner and get the jets back to their pilots.
“If BAF didn’t have the phase inspection team, the jets just wouldn’t fly because this is a scheduled inspection. They put 400 hours on the aircraft and we inspect it so they can have another 400 hours to fly and do the mission that’s required.”
Originally a flight line crew chief, Hogarth was augmented to be a phase inspection team member. Out of all the aircrafts he’s worked on, Hogarth finds the job of being on the phase dock to be one of the most challenging jobs yet.
“This is one of many airplanes that I’ve touched; the F-16 is a challenge in its own way,” he said. “Out of all the airframes I’ve worked on, doing a phase inspection is one of the most in-depth things I’ve done on an airplane.”
After an inspection is complete and the jet is returned back to the flight line, the phase dock continues to track the aircraft to ensure that their work done was successful.
“We keep track of tail numbers to keep tabs on how the jet is flying after we’ve released it back to the pilots. To know that we produced a jet that is going out and fulfilling combat missions is truly a great feeling,” he said.