Maintenance crews swap out rescue choppers for combat ops
By Maj. Cathleen Snow, 920th Rescue Wing Public Affairs
/ Published February 01, 2017
PATRICK AIR FORCE, Fla. --
Combat is hard on the body; it’s especially hard on the body of military choppers flown over Afghanistan’s jagged mountains and through its never-ending dust.
To ensure the flying safety of Air Force choppers used to save lives in combat, maintenance crews from the 920th Rescue Wing swap out an HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter for reconditioning.
Logging flying hours to win frequent-flyer miles alerts maintainers when an aircraft flying combat missions has reached its peak. While no bonus points are earned in this program, it ensures competitive advantage and lethality of the weapons system.
A fresh helicopter is prepped for combat and folded inside a C-17 Globemaster III for the Middle East to replace its trade-in.
A team of 10 maintainers is necessary to skillfully muscle the metal warrior into the cargo bay however, more often join the unique event for hands-on training and to secure the warrior on a smooth journey over an ocean and a continent.
The sub will relieve the combat-weary bird for a retreat to the helicopter spa, or Joint Depot Level Maintenance (JDLM). “It will be completely torn apart, inspected and put back together,” said Senior Master Sgt. Dean Peterson, 920th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Superintendent.
Peterson oversees the daily maintenance of all nine home-station Pave Hawks and helps determine when the ones in ‘the game’ deployed overseas in combat operations, are replaced when necessary.
“All of our helos are 1990 models; we have to send them into depot maintenance to ensure they last until their replacement comes,” said Peterson.
Each helicopter undergoes this grand process every six years, but many other processes take place daily to optimize combat rescue missions.
Peterson ensures the paperwork is perfect, then the aircraft is battle tested. “We have to fly it,” he said.
No more bullet holes and Band-Aids. “They look brand new when they come back,” he said. “It’s a beautiful airplane.”