Defense Media Network

The Aviation Field Maintenance Directorate Improves Readiness, Safety, Availability, and Quality

Keep Em' Flying

Worldwide Impact

Reset by AFMD has an impact wherever the Army operates helicopters. At one recent juncture, AFMD had completed Reset of 2,864 Army aircraft (out of the service’s total of about 4,300), including 337 special operations aircraft. The Army had 123 aircraft in Reset and 252 scheduled.

The directorate has Reset sites at Fort Lewis, Wash. (UH-60A/L/M Black Hawk and CH-47 Chinook); Fort Hood, Texas (UH-60, AH-64 Apache, and OH-58D(R) Kiowa Warrior); Fort Campbell, Ky. (UH-60, CH-47, AH-64, and some special operations platforms); Fort Stewart, Ga. (UH-60 and CH-47); Fort Bragg, N.C. (UH-60 and OH-58); and Fort Drum, N.Y. (UH-60). In addition, the directorate has had “non-enduring” (temporary) Reset sites at Wheeler Army Airfield, Hawaii, and Coleman Barracks, Germany, and will retain a small footprint in those locations for non-Reset maintenance functions after the drawdown takes place that will reduce the Army presence there.

Army journalist Parrino described the size and shape of the Reset task aptly in AFMD’s own internal newsletter. Watching mechanics disassemble a redeployed UH-60 Black Hawk inside a hangar at Fort Campbell (at a time when Fort Campbell’s AFMD component was Resetting 10 Black Hawks on a 75-day schedule, Parrino wrote: “Restoring a helicopter piece-by-piece must be done efficiently. Each aircraft is the sum of literally hundreds of subsystems.”

The Black Hawk is the Army’s most numerous and most familiar helicopter, made famous in the Mark Bowden book and the film Black Hawk Down about operations in Somalia in 1993. Most Black Hawks have now been retrofitted with 1,700-shaft horsepower General Electric T700-GE-701C engines that offer significant improvements over the original -700 model, allowing a significant increase in gross weight and permitting upgrades to communications, navigation, and other capabilities. AFMD must stay on top of these changes as the UH-60 fleet evolves. But staying on top of the situation often means knowing when not to do something, such as when an all-out overhaul is unnecessary.

Aviation mechanic Chris Miller inspects a recently removed transmission from UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter during Reset work in a hangar at Campbell Army Airfield. AFMD merges disparate AMCOM LCMC maintenance activities into one organization, providing better support for the warfighter. U.S. Army photo by Joe Parrino.

There are distinct advantages to using Reset, rather than full-fledged depot overhaul, to keep Black Hawks flying. All four of the other military service branches use versions of the Black Hawk, and all use a common overhaul site – the Army’s only
organic facility for repair and overhaul of rotary-wing aircraft: the Corpus Christi, Texas, Army Depot (CCAD). At Corpus, it is not uncommon to see an Army Black Hawk receiving ministrations alongside a Coast Guard Jayhawk or a Navy Seahawk. But while the other service branches have similar overhaul procedures to the Army’s, they do not have the same practices or technology for less-than-depot-level maintenance work, including Reset, that falls short of overhaul.

In covering the Reset process, the AFMD newsletter described civilian contractor Matt Hahnefeld, a mechanic crew chief, overseeing an effort to break down an entire Black Hawk. The job “takes a five-man team about three days,” Parrino wrote. “First to come out are major components such as the engine, the rotors and the transmission. Next the smaller parts: seats, doors, windows, etc. Parts that don’t come off are covered over with the appropriate barrier material to protect them during the pressure wash.”

The newsletter noted that because helicopters arrive caked with grime and dust, the entire aircraft needs three days of pressure washing. The most stubborn filth is the gunk that results from oil mixing with sand, Hahnefeld said. While the washing process continues, each small component is sent to back shops stocked with replacement parts and staffed with mechanics specialized in its maintenance. One shop focuses on generators, another on rotor blades, and another on engines. AFMD is constantly reviewing its logistical and human resources challenges to make sure it has the right people in the right place to cope with issues unique to a particular aircraft type.

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Robert F. Dorr is an author, U.S. Air Force veteran, and retired American diplomat who...