MIGHTY TACTICAL
Spc. Lynnwood Thomas

How US soldiers keep Black Hawk helicopters flying

(US Army photo by Spc. Lynnwood Thomas)

Across the US military last year, there were 18 known crashes involving UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters. That makes routine maintenance and inspection a vital part of ensuring the safety and security of our military's soldiers and equipment.

Soldiers from Delta Company, 1-171st Aviation Regiment, the maintenance company for Task Force Aviation on Camp Bondsteel, began a phase maintenance inspection for one of their UH-60 Blackhawk Helicopters on Nov. 18, 2019, in the aviation motor pool.

According to Army Techniques Publication 3-4.7, a phase maintenance inspection is a thorough and searching examination of the aircraft and associated equipment. The maintenance should be conducted every 320 flight hours in a UH-60's lifespan. More recently updated literature has changed the requirement to 480 flight hours.


"Every 480 hours we take a helicopter completely down and apart for safety inspections," US Army Capt. Paul Strella, commander of Delta Company, TF AVN said.

US soldiers clean a partially deconstructed UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter during a phase maintenance inspection, at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, Oct. 19, 2019.

(US Army photo by Spc. Lynnwood Thomas)

"We're inspecting each individual component to make sure it's still air-worthy and meets the DoD standard. Then we put everything back on it and do a test flight, ensuring that the aircraft is safe for flight and release back to the unit to put back in service."

Strella said that it is becoming rare for an Army unit to have a phase team to do the type of maintenance they are conducting, because those jobs are being outsourced to contractors.

"It's a great opportunity for Delta Company, during the KFOR 26 rotation, to be able to get hands-on experience," Strella said.

US soldiers from remove a UH-60 Black Hawk Helicopter engine during a phase maintenance inspection, at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, Oct. 19, 2019.

(US Army photo by Spc. Lynnwood Thomas)

"A lot of research went into the training and classes to be able to perform this efficiently and safely. Most importantly it's good training for the soldiers, to build their experience up for the continuity of the unit and to increase the soldiers' skill level."

The inspection should take 23 days by DoD standard, but Delta Company is extending the timeline to 10 weeks in order to move carefully through each step of the inspection.

Strella said this will allow meticulous execution of the processes and provide time for detailed training opportunities.

In addition to the routine aspects of the inspection, the soldiers plan to upgrade the engine to the most current model. The current engine is the General Electric 700 Model C and the updated engine will be a General Electric 700 Model D.

US Army Sgt. Daniel Beanland and Spc. Marshall Cox, UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter repairers, remove a UH-60 Black Hawk Helicopter engine during a phase maintenance inspection, at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, Oct. 19, 2019.

(US Army photo by Spc. Lynnwood Thomas)

US Army Spc. Jared Turner, UH-60 Blackhawk Helicopter repairer, TF AVN, said that it's his job to make sure that the aircraft are in the proper condition to successfully complete missions, whether it's carrying troops, sling-loading for air assault missions, or medical evacuations.

US Army Spc. Daniel Strickland, a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter repairer, removes a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter engine during a phase maintenance inspection, at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, Oct. 19, 2019.

(US Army photo by Spc. Lynnwood Thomas)

He said his favorite part is seeing the results of his unit's labor.

"Out on the flight line you get to see them take off and fly all the time, and when you recognize an aircraft that you've worked on, it's just a good feeling," Turner said. "That's one of the best parts of the job. You watch it fly away and you're like — I put my hands on that."

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.