Chinook News

Maintainers in the Boonies

By Andrew Drwiega, Defence Helicopter

Reprinted with permission


USMC Photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew Epright

USMC videos showcase Osprey maintenance in Iraq.

Osprey video, link to video

Produced by Cpl. Scott McAdam & Airman 1st Class Priscilla Christensen

When warnings came up on the console of a VMM-266 MV-22 that had just completed the outward leg of a mission to Camp Korean Village in the far west of Al-Anbar province, the pilots knew they were not going to be returning to base that day or – for all they knew at the time – the next few days.

Failure warnings were showing that the swash plate and swash plate actuator drive tube, behind the huge rotor housing on one of the engines, needed replacing. But they were 200 miles from their base at Al-Asad, with no equipment and only desert – not hard pad – beneath their feet. The engine nacelle plus its blades weighs around 2,000 lb (900 kg).


USMC Photo by Cpl. Theodore Ritchie

"Back at Al-Asad, the maintenance shop was busy pulling a team together to go and fix the problem at such a remote and unprepared location. On the flight line the technicians started examining their options. They had a small crane – hardly used, left by previous squadrons and with no instructions that might be suitable for the job. They quickly went through a dummy run and found that it could indeed lift a complete nacelle, so it was squeezed into an Osprey and sent, together with a mix of maintainers from each discipline, out to the downed aircraft.

When they arrived the most immediate challenge was setting up the crane on sandy, uneven ground. The possibility of the whole rig tipping over at the moment of lifting the nacelle was the worst fear. However, careful placing and taking a step-by-step approach to setting up the crane, steadying it on the uneven ground then lifting off the nacelle took time, but the plan worked.

Cpl Geoffrey Frank, avionics technician and L-Cpl Ryan Boele, flight line mechanic, were two of the junior maintainers who went along. Frank explained that the first problem was to ensure that the crane was stable and in a position not only to take the weight of the nacelle when it was lifted to maximum height, but also so it could be swung out of the way and positioned so that it was safe and available to re-site when the repair was finished. ‘At first we didn’t know whether it would be possible on that ground to lift the swash plate and drive tube. It was windy and cool, but not too dusty,’ said Boele.

The job was completed within 20 hours, including a break overnight (despite some initial help from vehicle headlights, it was decided to wait until morning to complete the repair).

Frank and Boele were both awarded the Navy Achievement Medal by their commander, Lt Col Christopher Seymour, for their enthusiasm and ‘can-do’ attitude during the recovery.


USMC Photo by Cpl. Theodore Ritchie


USMC Photo by Cpl. Ryan Young









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