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Engine Overhaul

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- There is a facility in Arizona where old aircraft engines typically settle into their final resting place - but one engine, under the care of West Virginia Air National Guard's 130th Airlift Wing, escaped "The Boneyard" and is moving toward continuing its service.
Senior Master Sgt. Harold K. Williams, propulsion shop work leader, and Tech. Sgt. Travis Carrier, engine mechanic, have been working on the T56-15 C-130 engine for nearly six months. Williams said everything clicked into place perfectly to make this happen for the 130th.
"I went to a training class back in April and during a break an engine manager from the National Guard Bureau came to me," Williams said. "He said he was looking for units who still have the tools and capability to do engine overhauls - and after a call back home to my boss, who said yes, we had all the tools from the old days to do it."
Williams said he remembers overhauling engines in the early 90s, but outside contractors have been taking care of overhauls for many years. He said while most units turned in their equipment when the job was outsourced, the 130th kept theirs, making them uniquely qualified to participate in the test.
The test, set up by the National Guard Bureau, is made up of five Guard units around the country Williams said. Both he and Carrier said they are glad to be a part of this, as it not only brings pride to the unit, but also provides a change of pace from their normal job of maintaining the unit's active fleet of C-130s.
"It's a challenge," Carrier said. "It's something you don't do every day. Taking the engine from the completely broken stage to a finished product that will be serviceable and an asset is definitely something different."
The maintainers usually take an active engine, replace one or two parts at a time and put it back to work said Williams. The big difference with this engine is almost everything had to be replaced - something that took a lot of research, note taking and trial and error. Williams and Carrier agreed changing one part is no big deal, but changing hundreds of parts gets difficult.
"Repairing an engine is one thing, but building one is an entirely different story," Williams said. "We had to go through some old books we haven't used in a while and use some old tools we haven't used in a while."
Carrier pointed out he had never even laid hands on some of the tools used during his 13 years in the Air Guard.
Williams said he and Carrier may have taken on the brunt of the work, but the overhaul was a group effort, with many shops coming together to see the project become a success.
"Leadership has done an excellent job of trying to leave us on the project," Williams said, referring to balancing their normal workload of keeping the wing's eight active aircraft flying with the overhaul project. "They didn't just pull us off for every nickel and dime project. If there was other ways other folks could get things done and we could work on this they did it.
"Other shops played a big role in this as well. We had to have the sheet metal shop for structural repair and painting. We needed electricians to help us run new wiring. They actually gave us an electrician for three weeks who did nothing put pull wire and run new wire. Actually, I want to mention him by name, Buck Douglas, a traditional Guardsman, but he came and worked those three weeks and did an excellent job."
The trial and error, digging in deep to figure out old techniques helped firm a sense of teamwork said Williams. He and Carrier created organization systems to keep track of all the parts they were taking off and putting on the engine - a process that took up a lot of room, and a lot of tape.
"We had different colored tape squares on the hangar floor to keep track of the different types of parts," said Williams. "It got messy at times, but our system worked out well for us."
Carrier agreed with Williams, saying if given the opportunity to do this again he knows the process will go much more smoothly.
"It's one of those things you just have to do over and over again," Carrier said. "We learned a lot. We kept notes of everything and next time we'll know what to do without having to figure it out which will make things go more efficiently."
Williams said the possibility of receiving more engines is not out of the realm of possibility. The Air Force's contract for outsourcing engine overhaul is nearing its end and there is a chance the job could fall back on military units. If that happens he said the 130th has shown it is up to the task and welcomes the challenge.
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