WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB, Ohio (AFNS) --
An A-10 Thunderbolt II damaged in a deployed location was quickly returned to service after a remote engineering assessment, while disbursed in response to COVID-19.
After a mission, maintenance crews needed to repair battle damage on an A-10 consisting of a bullet hole in the underbelly skin with an unknown exit point for the projectile.
Despite the challenge of teleworking, an Air Force Life Cycle Management Center team of engineers from the A-10 Division at Hill Air Force Base, Utah was formed to assess the damage.
“The team tested the teleworking capabilities during the previous weeks in anticipation of such an event,” said Pamela Lee, A-10 division chief at Hill AFB. “Because of this preparation, engineering was able to keep the lines of communication open with the unit to support the expedient response to this emergency repair.”
The entire operation was managed by email, file sharing over the global virtual private network, and telephone with none of the team members actually meeting face-to-face. Basically, the team accomplished the mission from their bedrooms, basements and home offices while flattening the virus curve by working from home.
The team lead, Ariane Aniban, directed 1st Lt. James Zhen and Reed Fawcett to develop a plan. They needed more details and directed the maintainers on the ground how to investigate further. After cutting a 3-inch hole in the underbelly, a crack in the structure with three sheared fasteners was found, along with the bullet lodged in the fuel cell cavity floor crack.
The engineer team studied the maintainer’s findings, including photos, and directed a plan of action to repair the damage. Once the steps were followed at the site, the package was assessed for airworthiness by Tim Allred and Greg Stowe, who determined the aircraft could safely return to operations.
“The disposition and flight waiver from the chief engineer were then released back to the unit in less than 24 hours,” Lee said. “I’m proud to know our team helped keep this vital aircraft in the air, performing its close-air support mission that is so important to our forces on the ground.”
Upon return to its home station, the aircraft will undergo final repairs.