AFLCMC maintenance team airlifts to repair F-16s during COVID-19 pandemic
By Airman 1st Class Adrian Salazar, 49th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published May 21, 2020
HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. (AFNS) --
To maintain mission readiness and using a team approach amidst COVID-19 travel restrictions, maintenance professionals and engineers from the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center performed depot-level repairs on three 49th Wing aircraft at Holloman Air Force Base.
To prevent a standard 14-day mandatory quarantine required by personnel traveling through commercial airports, the AFLCMC depot field team located at Hill AFB, Utah, were flown directly to Holloman AFB on a C-130 Hercules the week of April 27 to fix three F-16 Fighting Falcons in a weeks’ time and keep the 49th Wing mission ready.
The inoperable jets needed depot-level maintenance — a repair requiring a complete rebuild of parts, assemblies or subassemblies.
“We needed our aircraft fixed because two of them were taking up fuel barn space that we needed for other uses,” said Ronald McCarty, 49th Maintenance Group deputy director. “Having three aircraft down for an extended period of time hampers our ability to fly the sorties we need to train combat-ready pilots.”
Holloman’s previous COVID-19 posture would have put the depot maintenance team in quarantine for 28 days because the team would be arriving from outside the 50-mile radius for a maintenance repair that would only take a week.
“We worked with 19th Air Force, the 49th Wing commander and public health to work out a plan to get the team from Hill directly to Holloman and forgo the 14-day restriction of movement,” McCarty said. “We also worked airlift directly with Nineteenth Air Force and a 58th Special Operations Wing C-130 crew coming out of Kirtland AFB, (New Mexico).”
The maintenance team followed guidance from Holloman AFB’s public health professionals to stay in off base lodging, only coming on base to work on the jets.
“The health and safety of everyone was our top priority,” McCarty said. “They had use of three hangars that were for their use only and we split our teams up to limit potential exposure between them.”
One of the jets required a regular wing replacement and extra work on the nose landing gear, which could not have been done without hard work, safety and cooperation from both teams.
“It was a good experience working with the depot team. I was in and out just to limit exposure, but they were very nice to work with,” said Tech. Sgt. Luke Worley, a 49th Components Maintenance Squadron aircraft fuel system craftsman. “Once the depot team was done working on the wing, it was just a matter of installing the new wing and raising up the aircraft so they could repair the nose landing gear.”
All three aircraft will soon be ready for flight operations due to the effective, innovative, quick response from all parties.
“It couldn’t have been done without everybody’s help, it was definitely a team effort,” Worley said.