Staff Sgt. Michael Jones, 354th Maintenance Squadron electrical and environmental craftsman, inspects wires for chafing Oct. 7, 2013, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The entire aircraft is inspected for corrosion, defective pieces and chafing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ashley Nicole Taylor/Released)
Staff Sgt. Dean Bloomberg, 354th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron dedicated crew chief, performs a visual inspection of the throttle in the cockpit of an F-16 Fighting Falcon Oct. 7, 2013, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The phase crew takes up to two weeks with an aircraft ensuring it is safe to fly. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ashley Nicole Taylor/Released)
Brig. Gen. Mark Kelly, 354th Fighter Wing commander, inspects a piece of the wing’s flagship aircraft with Master Sgt. Joel Borden, 354th Maintenance Squadron inspections chief Oct. 7, 2013, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The purpose of an aircraft phase is to inspect the plane inch by inch, finding any discrepancies that would keep it permanently grounded. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ashley Nicole Taylor/Released)
Senior Airman Cody Berry, 354th Maintenance Squadron crew chief, checks the jet fuel starter of an F-16 Fighting Falcon Oct. 7, 2013, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Berry and the rest of the phase shop will thoroughly inspect the 354th Fighter Wing’s flagship aircraft in an effort to keep the Aggressor jet flying in top condition. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ashley Nicole Taylor/Released)
Staff Sgt. Dean Bloomberg, 354th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron dedicated crew chief, performs a hydraulic inspection Oct. 7, 2013, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The purpose of a hydraulic inspection is to ensure the integrity of the hydraulic system, making it safe to fly. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ashley Nicole Taylor/Released)
by Senior Airman Zachary Perras
354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
10/9/2013 - EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- As Airmen work tirelessly around the F-16 Fighting Falcon to remove panels, bolts and screws, it appears as if they are decommissioning the aircraft into an airplane graveyard.
What these Icemen are doing is the exact opposite, though: They're inspecting the plane inch by inch, finding any and all discrepancies that would keep the aircraft permanently grounded.
The 354th Maintenance Squadron phase shop is tasked with this arduous process - and they're not examining just any F-16 this go-around; they're looking at the 354th Fighter Wing's flagship aircraft.
Tech. Sgt. Robert Parsons, 354th MXS phase shop inspections section dock chief, said what phase essentially does is break down a jet, tear it apart, then put it back together, all in an effort to keep the plane flying in top condition.
"We try to catch all of the issues that could become bigger problems later on," he said. "That's the biggest part about phase - nipping these discrepancies in the bud so it doesn't make the jet inoperable."
For the 18th Aggressor Squadron F-16s, phase occurs after every 300 flight hours, giving the jet a complete overhaul. The entire aircraft is probed for corrosion, defective pieces and chafing. The phase crew performs a deeper inspection than crew chiefs on the flight line, taking up to two weeks to finish working on an aircraft.
Any problems found are logged on a gig sheet, and by the end of the assessment the phase crew can expect anywhere from 350 to 450 discrepancies on their plate, Parsons said. Each discrepancy, however, begins and ends at the phase shop.
"Our main focus is the keep the jets in the air and to minimize the downtime by doing every task at once here at phase," Parsons said. "Crew chiefs do all the day-to-day upkeep, but because you can't de-panel a jet every day, phase finds the things that there isn't necessarily time to fix on the flight line and we eliminate those problems."
Regardless of the broad spectrum of tasks the phase crew faces, each member performs with pride knowing they are directly contributing to the mission of the 354th FW, Parsons said. At the end of the day, planes need to fly - and phase makes it happen.
"What these Airmen do here is extremely vital to how we operate as the Iceman Team," said Brig. Gen. Mark Kelly, 354th FW commander. "It is by far the most extensive maintenance performed on Eielson, and because of the expertise of our phase crew, our pilots can fly with the assurance that they're safe up in the air."