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Home Station Check inspections keep wing's C-17s in the air

  • Published
  • By Stacy Vaughn
  • 445th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Taking care of the C-17 Globemaster III entails more than just an occasional washing, oil change and spot check of the plane. It takes the experience of a diverse maintenance team to go over the aircraft inch-by-inch, checking every nook and cranny for defects.

Every 120 days, a Home Station Check or HSC inspection is required to keep the C-17 mission ready. An HSC inspection is the largest maintenance program within the 445th Maintenance Squadron. It covers two shifts, and at times, involves more than 40 technicians working on the aircraft. The squadron is responsible for accomplishing quality inspections and preventive maintenance on the wing's fleet of nine C-17s.

"The overall mission of the HSC inspection is to provide the best product possible when each C-17 aircraft is returned to the (445th) Aircraft Maintenance Squadron," said Senior Master Sgt. Gerald Sandoval, 445th MXS maintenance flight supervisor.

According to Sandoval, a full HSC includes a wash, lubrication of system components, inspections, operational checks, servicing, and repair of identified discrepancies. Additionally, the scheduled downtime of the C-17 for HSC allows the accomplishment of removal and replacement of time change items (such as hoses, clamps, and filters) plus completion of delayed or deferred discrepancies. A refurbishment inspection, though limited, is accomplished approximately every two years in conjunction with an HSC to enhance both interior and exterior portions of the aircraft.

Depending on the type of inspection, both aircraft maintenance and maintenance squadrons work together as a team.

"From beginning to end, the HSC Flight is primarily responsible for managing the complex maintenance flow plan. The flight chief, section supervisors, and two coordinators ensure a safe and timely accomplishment of the work by 10-12 different maintenance career fields, such as crew chiefs, electrical and environmental systems, aerospace propulsion, as well as several other departments and support flights," Sandoval said.

During FY12, MXS performed 22 inspections. In FY 13, the squadron will perform a total of 25 HSC inspections. The increase is due to the transition from a 180-day to a 120-day inspection. There are two months when the squadron will be tasked to accomplish three HSC inspections.

Tech. Sgt. Chuck Roach, Jr., 445th Maintenance Squadron HSC coordinator, helps to oversee the HSC process. "Each 120-day HSC has 1-6 different packages or set up inspections. Some are light maintenance, others are heavy maintenance. The most current inspection, HSC #5, was completed on Feb. 25. It included heavy involvement by the jet engine shop," Roach said.

HSCs extends the life of aircraft systems and the aircraft overall. "If your vehicle went through a process like an HSC, you would never have to buy another vehicle again," Roach said.

Sandoval said when the program started at the wing for the C-17, there were some issues facing the maintainers stemming from the conversion from the C-5 Galaxy to the C-17.

"Some of the problems encountered with starting the program included ensuring all our technicians were routed to formal schools for C-17 qualifications. A few of the flights had the challenge of having to keep some of their technicians with dual qualifications until the final C-5 was transferred. Supervision in maintenance flight took an aggressive approach for their technicians' initial training, and was constantly being challenged to rework schedules to meet the maintenance group operation requirements as well as those of the individuals," Sandoval said.

Sandoval said once everybody was trained and the inspection programs were put into place, the squadron would have to face the next challenge--where to conduct the inspections.

The first HSC had to be accomplished at March Air Reserve Base, Calif., with squadron members deploying with the aircraft. This was followed by the next two HSCs along with the refurbishment inspections being accomplished out on the flightline due to unavailable hangar space.

"Once the squadron was able to relocate, the maintenance flight moved more than $10.5 million in C-17/C-5 equipment consisting of more than 4,000 items, in a matter of three days, and during a C-17 home station check to Hangar 4015. This was accomplished with minimal problems and HSC maintenance operations were never affected," Sandoval said.

Sandoval said the inspection process has improved; going from an initial 24 days to now 10 days or less to complete one HSC.

As the most recent HSC was winding down, all team players involved were satisfied with their accomplishments. A PowerPoint slide was displayed and constantly updated when each particular part of the HSC was completed and the percent the other areas still in the works were.

"During each HSC, our guys know on the work card where we are. This slide is constantly updated and gives us an idea of exactly where we're at in the process," Roach said. "This is a great tracking tool and gives us an idea for future HSCs how long to expect each one to last. For example, the next time we have to do an HSC #5, we can see how long it takes to complete an HSC #5. We may schedule it for 10 days and see that it should only take us 5-6 days," he added.

After all the required maintenance is completed and inspected, the HSC is complete. The aircraft is now mission ready and standing by to undertake its next tasking.