28th MXS helps keep B-1s fit to fight

  • Published
  • By Airman Ashley J. Cass
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Ask any B-1 aviator how critical it is to have solid engines under them during any mission and most will agree that without them, nothing happens.

Ensuring each engine, capable of producing 30,000 pounds of thrust, on the base's fleet of 28 B-1 bombers operates correctly rests in the skilled hands of the aerospace propulsion technicians from the 28th Maintenance Squadron. These eight Airmen shed their blood, sweat and tears to keep the heart of each bomber in top shape.

Tech. Sgt. Luke Kegley, 28th MXS aerospace propulsion technician, said the bulk of his time is spent troubleshooting maintenance issues on the flightline and maintaining the aircraft engine test cell.

Kegley and his fellow Airmen perform inspections using borescopes, a sophisticated tool composed of a small camera on the end of a tube that projects the image onto a screen and allows maintainers to inspect otherwise inaccessible parts of an aircraft. This is done on each B-1 engine after every 100 hours of flying time.

"The closest thing I can compare it to is a doctor giving someone a colonoscopy," Kegley explained.

The delicate procedure also involves an Airmen climbing into the engine being inspected and spinning the fan while the borescope is inserted.

"We perform these inspections to make sure there are no problems or defects that could cause a catastrophic failure," Kegley said.

Airmen 1st Class Will Schaumann and Aaron Barber, 28th MXS aerospace propulsion technicians, who along with every aero prop tech trained at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, fully understand how even the smallest part of a B-1 engine must be solid for ensured performance and safety.

Barber, who hails from Ohio, had a general interest in airplanes when he joined the Air Force. He was intrigued by the description of the Air Force specialty code he now holds.

"This job was one of the five I picked after I took the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery)," Barber said. "I thought working on planes sounded pretty cool."

Barber, along with Schaumman and the other Airmen in the squadron, assists with tasks such as disassembling engine thermometers, inspecting them for defects, and cleaning each component before inserting them back into the engine.

"Each engine has a thermometer that tells the computer system in the cockpit vital information about the engine during flight," Schaumann said. "Making sure they're clean and functioning properly is a big deal."

In addition, Kegley said Airmen from the maintenance unit perform isochronal inspections on aircraft after every 1,900 hours of flight.

"If there's a minor problem, we can drop the engine and fix it," Kegley said. "But there are cases where we have to get a new engine."

Sometimes the root of a problem cannot be determined by sight alone, and the engine is taken to the engine test cell in Bldg. 1500 to be analyzed. Tech. Sgt. David Frick, 28th MXS aerospace propulsion technician, said Ellsworth's test cell allows maintenance personnel to pinpoint the cause of B-1 engine malfunctions.

Inside the test cell, two massive overhead cranes are used to mount an engine inside the cavernous, rectangular room before it is activated from a nearby control hub. Personnel inside the hub monitor the engine through a large window, and fire up the unit with an intricate set of buttons and monitors akin to a spaceship control panel.

"It's a great piece of equipment to have," Frick said. "We can do an in-depth analysis of an engine to figure out exactly why a problem is occurring, and can have an engine in and out of here in two days. It's pretty important because it saves us a huge amount of time, and the cost of shipping the engine somewhere else to be evaluated."

The Michigan native explained that in a deployed environment, the duties of an aerospace propulsion technician are concentrated mainly on the flightline.

"You don't have as much time to spend looking at a problem in depth," Frick said. "The environment is considerably more fastpaced."

Having grown up with a passion for airplanes, Frick enjoys having a career that gives him hands-on experience with B-1s.

"It's a dream come true," Frick said, adding that the work he and others in the squadron do is very important.

Kegley and Frick both agreed that the Airmen from the 28th MXS are proud of their contribution to the success of the base mission.

"You have a sense of pride when you work hard, and you put out a quality product," Frick said. "When you see that aircraft launch, after you've been there from a to z, and you know it's a direct result of something you did - that's when you know you did something good with your day."