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Fold, Fix and Fly

By Senior Airman Micaiah Anthony 2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs

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In order for an aircraft to roll, pitch and yaw it needs three primary components: a spoiler, elevator and a rudder. Recently however, it was discovered one of Team Barksdale's B-52H Stratofortess bombers needed a new rudder.

Most parts or components are changed out regularly due to constant wear and tear but the last time a rudder was changed at Barksdale, some of the phase Airmen from the 2nd Maintenance Squadron weren't even here yet.

"The last rudder we changed was two years ago," said Senior Airman Douglas Raymond, 2 MXS repair and reclamation journeyman. "The rudder is one of three primary flight controls, without it the aircrew would have no control of the aircraft and flight wouldn't be possible."

The rudder had to be replaced due to cracks found during the B-52's regularly scheduled phase inspection. The rudder, located on the tail of the aircraft, controls the yaw motion, which moves the nose of the aircraft left and right. According to Raymond, there are several ways the rudder can get damaged.

"There are 1,000 reasons why a rudder would need to be replaced. Fatigue, stress, bird strikes, corrosion and loose rivets are just a few factors," he said.

A rudder change is no simple task and it takes a hand full of Airmen several hours to complete.
"First we fold the fin to the right side of the B-52, then we disconnect the seal, remove the bolts and then remove the rudder with a crane," said Senior Airman Jacob Dunn, 2 MXS R&R.

According to Raymond, the fin fold alone takes more than two hours to complete.
"We take a giant jack screw and attach it to the aircraft's fuselage and vertical stabilizer," he said. "Once that is on and all the components are disconnected, you can start hand cranking it down which takes four Airmen approximately two to four hours."

According to Raymond, the 2,600 pound fin is hand cranked into position with one hand.
Once the fin is completely folded, it is locked in place for safety so the Airmen can work on it.

"Removing the rudder takes five to six hours depending on whether or not you have to install a new one or if sheet metal has to work on it," said Raymond. "After that, it takes another five to six hours to put it back on."

With the rudder installed, Airmen from the 2nd Maintenance Group Quality Assurance Office inspect the rudder to ensure everything is up to standards.

"Quality Assurance's role during this key task is to come back after all of the maintenance is done and from a third party perspective, verify the high problem areas are worked and are good to go," said Staff Sgt. Michael Dickerson, 2 MXG weapons quality assurance inspector. "If any of the components fail, the aircraft can go down, so we are potentially saving lives."

With the new rudder installed and inspected, phase Airmen spend the next eight hours raising the fin of the B-52. Once fully vertical, the aircraft can return to the flightline and continue providing combat capabilities for the U.S. and its allies.