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Lance Cpl. Michael K. Pappan, an airframe mechanic with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 465, tightens hydraulic lines inside a CH-53E. These Marines work on both the interior and exterior of the aircraft.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Manuel F. Guerrero

Airframers Keep Rotors Spinning, Pilots in the Sky

16 Jan 2009 | Lance Cpl. Manuel F. Guerrero

The sound of hammers, drills and Marines searching through tool boxes are heard every day on flight lines throughout the Marine Corps. It is the sound of hard-working airframes and hydraulic mechanics on the CH-53E “Super Stallion” keeping their aircraft mission ready.

No mission commences until these masters of the Super Stallion say the bird is “good to go.”

“A big part of our job is maintaining the hydraulic systems and structural integrity of the CH-53,” said Sgt. Eric T. Proffitt, the airframe collateral duty coordinator for Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 465. “We inspect everything as safely and quickly as possible to get the mission on its way.”

Pilots have 72 hours to fly before airframe mechanics must re-inspect the helicopters.

“We check tires, hydraulics, cracks on the helicopter and everything else,” said Sgt. Chevron L. Humphrey, the airframes collateral duty coordinator for HMH-462. “We look for things that we know can be a problem to the potential mission.”

Squadrons also conduct daily checkups on helicopters as an added safety measure.

“We check all the tires, metal work, blades and hydraulics of the aircraft during our daily checkups,” said Humphrey. “We basically own this aircraft.”

According to Proffitt, it takes around 50 maintenance hours for every hour a CH-53E is in flight.

“We are the ones that are still working late hours because there are helicopters that are still flying,” said Proffitt. “For us, there is always something to do.”

Airframers do more than turn a wrench; their job is multi-faceted.

“Essentially, every part of the aircraft is part of our job,” said Sgt. Janty Bashoy, a collateral duty inspector for the HMH-465. “The majority of the maintenance revolves around us.”

The airframers’ job does not follow a set working schedule. These Marines are on call, around the clock, ready to serve any problems that may arise.

 “If a CH-53 has a hydraulic leak we have to fix it, and the next day we might have to do some composite and metal work,” said Proffitt. “We have more than two sides to our job, which makes us cover a larger scope.”

It is difficult to find a job this demanding as well as rewarding, according to Bashoy.

“Our job field is hard and demanding  but we love what we do,” said Bashoy.   “We are experts when it comes to       the CH-53E; nobody knows this helicopter better than us.”

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3rd Marine Aircraft Wing