Tech. Sgt. Robert Lefors and Staff Sgt. Michael Dickerson, 2nd Maintenance Group Quality Assurance Office, inspect a B-52H Stratofortress rudder on Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Oct. 2. Due to cracks found during a phase inspection, Airmen from the 2nd Maintenance Squadron removed and replaced the B-52s rudder. The B-52 provides the backbone of the bomber force with the ability for global attack and precision engagement. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Micaiah Anthony)(RELEASED)
A jack screw helps hold a B-52H Stratofortress fin in place on Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Oct. 2. The jack screw is used to raise and lower the 2,600 pound fin by hand. For every 10 rotations the screw moves one thread. Raising or lowering the fin can take four to eight hours. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Micaiah Anthony)(RELEASED)
Staff Sgt. Michael Dickerson, 2nd Maintenance Group Quality Assurance Office, inspects the rudder of a B-52H Stratofortress on Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Oct. 2. Due to cracks found during a phase inspection, Airmen from the 2nd Maintenance Squadron removed and replaced the B-52s rudder. Before the fin can be lifted, QA Airmen must inspect the work completed to ensure the aircraft is up to standards. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Micaiah Anthony)(RELEASED)
by Senior Airman Micaiah Anthony
2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs
10/5/2012 - BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. -- 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.