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Engines: fix it or ship it

By Airman 1st Class Micaiah Anthony 2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs

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It takes eight jet engines capable of producing roughly 136,000 pounds of thrust to get a 92.5 ton B-52H Stratofortress off the ground.

To keep all eight engines running smoothly, Airmen from the 2nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Propulsion Flight work day and night.

"We service the engine the same way you would your car," said Staff Sgt. Raymond Gomez, 2nd Maintenance Squadron aerospace propulsion craftsman. "We perform inspections, component removal and installations along with fuel, oil and ignition checks."

Though the B-52H's engines have been in service since the early 1960s, propulsion Airmen do what they can to keep the tough engine running, according to Staff Sgt. Joshua Crane, 2 MXS assistant engine manager.

"They're not making new engines, they are refurbishing the old ones," said Gomez. "When the aircraft comes in, we inspect the engines and do full service maintenance as a preventative measure."

These inspections are known as phase inspections and occur when a B-52H has accumulated 450 flight hours. During the phase inspection, maintenance Airmen inspect the aircraft from wing tip to wing tip, nose to tail, to ensure the aircraft is capable of continuing to support the mission.

In some cases, engines have to be removed from the aircraft and taken to the back shop for maintenance. To keep the mission going, the Propulsion Flight has spare engines ready to fly.

Not having engines effects more than just the flight of the aircraft, it affects its systems as well.

"The aircraft's systems and work centers depend on the engines to power them," said Gomez. "The generators on the engine power all of the electrical components on the aircraft. Without the work we do to support the engines there would be no mission."

For more complex maintenance, the Propulsion Flight has two options when it comes to fixing the engine, either keeping it here and using it at Barksdale or shipping it out to get it fixed.

"Generally we will ship the engine to the Maintenance Depot at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., or we could apply for a waiver to extend the life of the effected component," said Crane. "Most of the time we wrap it up and ship it out to the depot."

According to Gomez, when the engines are sent to Tinker for maintenance there are two facilities where they can go. Repair Enterprise 21, where they fix what is wrong with the engine, and Two Level Maintenance where they disassemble the motor and rebuild it.

Like phase inspections for the B-52H, the engines are sent to the maintenance depot to undergo mandatory inspections after so many hours flown.

"Every 6,000 hours flown, the engines are sent to the depot for mandatory inspections," said Gomez. "The decision was made a few years back to send engines there to centralize repairs."

Once an engine returns from the maintenance depot, 2 MXS Propulsion Airmen still have a lot to do.

"Any time an engine comes back from depot, we do a full inspection," said Gomez. "After the inspection we mount key components to the engine and prepare it for installation on the aircraft so it is ready when we need it."

Gomez and his fellow 2 MXS Propulsion Airmen enjoy seeing their finished product.

"For us, it's more of a relief getting everything completed and seeing the jet that we just worked on takeoff," he said. "You look back and remember what it took to get that aircraft up there."