On the flightline with maintainers – engine shop
By Airman 1st Class Hrair H. Palyan, 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 11, 2013
ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- (Editor's Note: This is the first of a series of feature stories that focus on the Airmen who maintain B-1 bombers and the impact they have on the Air Force mission.)
Ellsworth B-1 bombers have provided the U.S. with ground and air superiority for more than two decades - an accomplishment that wouldn't be possible if not for Airmen who work timelessly around-the-clock to service and repair the base's bomber fleet.
Aerospace propulsion technicians are one of the six specialties in the 28th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron's specialist section who are responsible for making sure each B-1 at Ellsworth functions properly.
Staff Sgt. Jonathan Hill, 28th AMXS lead propulsion technician, said he and his team know B-1 engines inside and out.
"After aircrews land and taxi to their dock, we're called in to get to work on the aircraft," explained Hill. "Sometimes, they land with nothing that needs to be repaired, but other times there's a few hours worth of work to finish."
Hill said the engines on the B-1 are extremely complex. The power they produce - more than 30,000 pounds of thrust per engine with afterburner - combined with lengthy missions that contribute to wear and tear, result in the B-1s reputation as a high maintenance aircraft.
Before starting a new job, propulsion technicians must review their technical orders - paying close attention to any changes that may have occurred.
"If we make even a simple mistake, we can literally cause hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage to a B-1," said Hill. "TOs provide us with clear instructions on how to safely do our job. They also serve as a checklist so we don't forget steps during a repair. I always keep mine up-to-date and by my side at all times."
An integral part of maintaining each multi-million dollar engine is performing routine and after repair inspections, Hill said.
"After I diagnose the issues the engine is experiencing, I remove and replace any defective components," Hill noted. "Our work is then inspected for quality assurance. If we get the thumbs up, aircrews will start up the B-1 and perform test runs to make sure everything is running smoothly."
Hill added that stateside work prepares technicians well for the higher mission tempo at locations overseas.
"I love my job," Hill said. "It can be challenging at times - managing tasks and our team, but being part of such an amazing mission gives me a great sense of pride."
Master Sgt. Lance Stephenson, 28th Bomb Wing Foreign Object Damage Program manager, said propulsion specialists are, and will always be, without question, a vital part of the Air Force and its mission.
"These Airmen truly keep B-1s mission ready," emphasized Stephenson. "Without them, the aircraft would not fly and we wouldn't have the capabilities we do today."