509th MXS propulsion flight Airmen boost readiness to 18-year high
By Staff Sgt. Kayla White, 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
/ Published July 22, 2019
WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. (AFNS) --
The 509th Maintenance Squadron propulsion flight has achieved the highest engine readiness rate across the active-duty Air Force.
Forty jet engine mechanics operate out of a repair center on base, ensuring the readiness of Whiteman Air Force Base’s $44 billion fleet of B-2 Spirits.
Active duty and National Guard Airmen collaborate with civilian employees on a daily basis to achieve a 375% war ready engine level. The WRE level is the net number of serviceable engines available to support the Air Force’s war tasking at a given time.
Col. Mark Riselli, the 509th Maintenance Group commander, highlighted the milestone as a reflection of that collaboration, an initiative known across the AF as total force integration.
“Our TFI B-2 jet propulsion team is peak performing,” he said. “Their ability to deliver spare engines is critical to ensuring we meet our annual flying hour commitments and, more importantly, the team is delivering safe and reliable aircraft to our aircrew members every time we fly.”
Riselli also credited the strong partnerships with General Electric, Northrop-Grumman, Headquarters Air Force Global Strike Command and Air Force Material Command, specifically Tinker AFB, Oklahoma. These partners ensure that Whiteman AFB Airmen have the technical support, equipment and parts they need to succeed.
The propulsion flight is unique in that it performs intensive maintenance and tests on the B-2 engines and the aircraft’s tailpipes while they are separated from the aircraft itself.
Edwin Hancock, a former Air Force maintainer and current a civilian Air Force engineering and technical services representative, has been working within the B-2 mission for 26 years. He supports the jet propulsion flight as they work to resolve complex system and maintenance problems.
Hancock explained the significance of the tests run by the jet propulsion flight.
“The limits for these tests are much more stringent than operating engines installed on the aircraft,” he said. “The test cell operator must be highly skilled in engine operation and troubleshooting. It is his or her expertise that determines if the engine operates within specified limits.”
Master Sgt. Bobby Rodriguez, the 509th MXG propulsion flight chief, leads the flight’s maintenance efforts, evaluates the skills of its members and ensures appropriate distribution of manpower across the wing.
“Being able to empower my team with critical tasks and trust things will get accomplished is what made this possible,” he said. “Being able to communicate and trust each other has made this propulsion flight solid.”
Rodriguez credited his team’s ability to learn from the critical feedback they receive through evaluations and then challenge each other through intensive regular training.
“Being able to say we have the Air Force’s number one highest active-duty WRE level is special,” he said. “I’m proud to be their flight chief.”