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Airmen check engines, save millions

A damaged B-52H Stratofortress engine sits on a trailer on Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Oct. 10, 2013. The engine was shipped to Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., for an investigation into the damage and repairs. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Airman 1st Class Benjamin Raughton)

A damaged B-52H Stratofortress engine sits on a trailer on Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Oct. 10, 2013. The engine was shipped to Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., for an investigation into the damage and repairs. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Airman 1st Class Benjamin Raughton)

Tech. Sgt. William Cheese, 2nd Maintenance Squadron engine trending and diagnostics monitor, demonstrates how a piece of foreign object debris can enter a B-52H Stratofortress engine and damage its turbines on Barksdale Air Force Base, Oct. 10, 2013. If damage to the engine is great enough, it will be shipped to Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., for an investigation and complete repair. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Airman 1st Class Benjamin Raughton)

Tech. Sgt. William Cheese, 2nd Maintenance Squadron engine trending and diagnostics monitor, demonstrates how a piece of foreign object debris can enter a B-52H Stratofortress engine and damage its turbines on Barksdale Air Force Base, Oct. 10, 2013. If damage to the engine is great enough, it will be shipped to Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., for an investigation and complete repair. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Airman 1st Class Benjamin Raughton)

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. -- Every time the B-52H Stratofortress takes off, eight engines battle intense heat, wind, pressure and foreign object damage to get the 488,000 pound behemoth aloft.

Altogether, are more than 216 B-52H Stratofortress engines on Barksdale and five Airmen from the 2nd Maintenance Squadron are responsible for maintaining each one.

This includes monitoring engine flight hours and maintenance, trending engine data over time to determine recurring problems, and coordinating engine investigations and overhauls with Tinker Air Force Base, Okla.

"Every time there's a sortie and engines are operated and flown in flight, pilots fill out an engine performance sheet which has all of the engine parameters," said Tech. Sgt. William Cheese, 2nd Maintenance Squadron engine trending and diagnostics monitor. "After the sortie debriefing, I'll compile and trend the data."

Trending engine data allows the engine management shop to document an engine's ongoing behavior in flight or problems the engine has had in the past.

Every 6,000 flight hours, the engine is shipped to Tinker, for an overhaul, which replaces most components with new ones. An engine may also be shipped to Tinker for other reasons.

"Some things we can fix here on the flightline," said Cheese. "But as far as taking the entire engine apart, that happens at Tinker. We'll ship any motor or engine with internal damage or part failure and then issue a spare."

To prevent a costly $1.5 million replacement, engines are also inspected at regular intervals.

"There are phase inspections every 450 flight hours," said Staff Sgt. Christopher Percy, 2nd Maintenance Squadron base engine manager. "It's when the engine is inspected for its condition to see if its parts are maintaining their integrity or becoming worn down."

Parts may become damaged or worn down by more than an engine surpassing recommended flight hour limits. FOD remains a real threat to turbines and can cause malfunctions.

"The turbine blades have to withstand a lot of heat and stress and if they aren't changed in time, they'll break down," Percy said. "A piece of FOD can get inside the blades of the engine. At Tinker, an investigation will be done to find out the source of the FOD."

In case of an engine failure or malfunction, engine management also maintains a number of spare engines while the damaged unit is repaired at Tinker.

"We need those spare engines," Cheese said. "We want to have two right-hand motors and two left-hand motors at all times. The B-52 is an older aircraft but if an engine problem arises, we're the Airmen who have to keep the mission going."