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Now... THAT's An Airlift! Super Stallions Head To 5th Fleet Area of Operations

Super Stallions Serviced, Airlifted to U.S. 5th Fleet Area of Operations

After six months of intensive work to ensure flawless operation, Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) recently did what it does best: returned two mission-ready Marine Corps CH-53Es Super Stallion helicopters directly to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of the Global War on Terrorism.

The two helicopters were flown directly to the Middle East via an Air Force C-5A Galaxy transport aircraft following their overhaul at FRCSW. As these aircraft were delivered, two more CH-53Es were dropped off at Naval Air Station North Island for service.

Ron Cobb, FRCSW Airframes Branch deputy product manager, said work on the aircraft included fuselage frame structure repair; replacing the skin, transition bulkhead, and cockpit floorboard; accessory changes for structural enhancements, KAPTON electrical wiring upgrade, and corrosion repair throughout the fuselage.

Scheduler Matt Stanley, a hub scheduler on the CH-53 Production line, said the Super Stallions went through an integrated maintenance program. “We do depot-level work on them like major structural repairs, and we’ll usually have them for about six months. And while they’re here, we’ll also perform the organizational-level work (routine maintenance) which is ordinarily done at the squadrons. So, we encompass all of it. Then they’ll go back out in the fleet for 48 months, making a complete 54-month cycle,” he said.

When preparing the aircraft for overseas flight, a total of six personnel (military and civilians) perform shipment preparations and usually take two and a half days per aircraft, Stanley noted.

“Marines from (Marine Corps Air Station) Miramar have provided most of the manpower. We have assisted by putting the helos in the hangars and running the overhead crane and things like that,” he said.

Primary components of the aircraft that are removed for shipment include: the main rotor and tail rotor blades; the main rotor head; the tail rotor gearbox assembly; the external fuel tanks and bat wings (a fearing assembly). The components are bundled to the body, while the main rotor is shipped on a separate pallet.

Re-assembling a CH-53 may take up to two weeks – considerably longer than the two and a half days it took to prepare it for shipping, Stanley was quick to note.

“Taking something apart is usually easier than putting it back together. As a result of having to put the larger pieces back on it, they (assemblers) will have to do a complete ground check and a functional flight check which will involve testing all the systems and the performance of the aircraft,” he said.

Stanley said the two Super Stallions were the first helicopters that FRCSW overhauled and returned directly to the 5th Fleet.

“We will induct ten CH-53Es for fiscal year 2007. For fiscal year 2008, we will induct 13. So, we’re adjusting our resources and manpower to meet the increasing tempo of our work to service the customer,” said Stanley.

FMI: www.navair.navy.mil

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