ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. --
It’s a crisp, clear morning at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., and Airmen from every squadron are working hard to contribute to the mission of the 28th Bomb Wing - guaranteeing our nation's expeditionary combat power, anywhere on the globe.
Inside hangar 73, a specialized team of maintenance Airmen are hard at work ensuring Ellsworth’s valuable B-1 bombers are in their best conditions; a process known as an 800 flight hour inspection.
“Essentially, once a bomber has reached 800 flight hours, it comes to our shop for in-depth, total maintenance,” said Master Sgt. Leighton Bulley, the phase section chief assigned to the 28th Maintenance Squadron. “We have multiple shops maintaining their specialized area of the aircraft.”
After an aircraft has entered hangar 73, the 20 day inspection process begins. This process involves people in structures and metals, along with the electricians, hydraulics specialists and avionics.
“When the aircraft arrives, we spend the first three days on the critical pre-start checks,” Bulley said. “This involves major checks like the spoilers, stab actuator and low rudders. We then move on to the next portion - the inspection phase.”
Inspecting the B-1 is labor intensive and takes approximately five days. Maintainers look over every part to identify replacement or repair needs.
“After [the inspection phase] is the fix phase, so whatever we found in the previous phase is the time to actually get those repairs taken care of,” Bulley said.
Once the repairs are completed, a team of quality assurance Airmen come in and inspect the jet, making sure there are no broken or missing pieces. Piecing this aircraft together might sound like ‘Humpty Dumpty’, but the great care and diligence from these Airmen is essential in accomplishing the mission.
“My job throughout this whole process is to track all of the maintenance that is taking place,” said Tech. Sgt. James McCurdy, the phase section monitor assigned to the 28th MXS. “I track all of the scheduled inspections and the progress of said maintenance, [guiding those involved] in the right direction during the maintenance process to get the job done.”
McCurdy noted that although it can be tough managing over 50 people during this intensive 20 day process, but the reward comes from knowing the decisions made and time invested in the careful planning and supervision help ensures the process goes smoothly and efficiently, keeping the B-1s in the air.