ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. --
Sunlight pours lazily over the horizon as birds chirp their songs, flying gently in the breeze. Within an instant this tranquility is replaced by the sound of a B-1 bombers’ mighty roar, a lean, mean fighting machine ready to dispense combat airpower – anytime, anywhere.
Much like a heavy sleeper needs a multitude of alarms to get up in the morning, the B-1 needs a bit of a kick in the butt to get started. This is where the Consolidated Aircraft Support System (CASS) comes into the picture, a large piece of equipment maintained by the 28th Maintenance Squadron aerospace ground equipment flight and the 28th Civil Engineer Squadron.
With AGE and the help of the 28th CES, the system can continue to support the bomber whenever it needs it most.
“This system is 100 percent functional, both on the conditioned air and power side,” said Thomas Cassella, an electronic control shop technician assigned to the 28th CES. “That in itself saves more than $400,000 a year just in fuel to maintain the AGE cart, not to mention the maintenance they do on the carts themselves.”
CASS can be considered a beast of a machine, the hulking mass of machinery consists of multiple parts and structures reaching far and wide beneath the flight line. This mechanism provides both air and power to support the B-1 bomber, which maintainers can properly use to ready the jet during pre-flight inspections.
Tech. Sgt. Caleb Warren, an AGE craftsman assigned to the 28th MXS, explained what work was put into the system. Whether it’s upgrading components that go out on the 30-year-old machine, or preventatively upgrading the system to avoid future ailments, this effort makes CASS much more dependable with every advancement.
“Over the course of the last 10 years, we have put more than $500,000 worth of modifications to the CASS,” Cassella explained. “It is an extremely reliable system.”
These modifications include multiple new devices such as state-of-the-art electronic digital controls, 125-ton chiller systems and boilers.
“Keeping the CASS running is important for the aircraft maintainer,” Warren said. “Compared to the 20,000 pound air conditioner we used to use when the jet goes through pre-flight, CASS is virtually quite, allowing maintainers to communicate easier.”
Having a quieter system and the easier communion that comes with it cuts time off the pre-flight process. This as well as the fuel saved compared to the older AGE equipment is another reason the B-1 performs on such a high level.
“With this new system we are saving roughly 1,000 gallons of fuel a week instead of the typical ground support equipment,” Warren said. “Not to mention that setting it up is about 45 minutes faster than the previous equipment setup.”
Warren added the duct work on a portable air conditioner is quite extensive and takes about 1.5 hours for setup and tear down. The CASS eliminates this delay, streamlining the process.
Though the system is a great addition to the maintainer’s arsenal, it does come with its own drawbacks. According to Warren, many of the challenges they face with the system is parts procurement.
“The parts are expensive and unique to an explosion environment,” Warren explained. “Everything in the electrical side is explosion proof so it has to be very specific components we are replacing.”
Both the AGE flight and the 28th CES will continue to work together like the well-oiled machine they are to provide system maintenance and repairs and doing what’s necessary to keep the B-1 in the fight.