BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. --
Just like every other aircraft, parts on a B-52H Stratofortress age, get damaged and become unserviceable.
One detachment at Barksdale Air Force Base has developed a way to take those unusable parts and create hands-on training opportunities for maintainers.
“Normally, we have to coordinate with the maintenance squadron to find an aircraft that’s not being flown or worked on and ask if we can get a block of time to go out and perform training tasks,” said Master Sgt. Michael Farrar, 372nd Training Squadron Field Training Detachment 5 superintendent. “Training is important and everyone understands that, but you have actual missions being completed out there on the flight line. So, there is always a chance for us to be in the way or even not being able to get the aircraft to do our training and that is where the unserviceable parts come in.”
By utilizing aged or operationally condemned parts, the Air Education Training Command detachment assembles trainers that allow for a safe and focused environment for their Airmen to learn in.
For example, the detachment has a functioning landing gear trainer, which allows them to show maintainers step-by-step how to complete tasks such as replacing hydraulic fluid or change a tire without the worries of damaging operational aircraft, outside distractions or the fast-paced actions being conducted on the flight line.
“We want to provide effective training, so if using an operational aircraft is better, we would certainly like to do that over a trainer,” said Tech. Sgt. Dylan Drake, 372nd TRS FTD 5 crew chief instructor. “However, having the trainers here is certainly more convenient and gives us the ability to do it over and over if we need to.”
Currently, the detachment is trying to get a section of a B-52H tail from the boneyard to use for drag chute training, which will alleviate one of their most difficult training scenarios to set up.
“The reason the training is problematic to organize is because the chutes are only deployed after a flight, so trying to coordinate a time where we have the students and also have an aircraft land can sometimes be tough between the communication and timing,” Drake explained. “Having that tail section here that we can load whenever we need to would be a great addition to our capabilities.”
This hands-on experience has proven to be effective to students when it comes to absorbing the information.
“This form of instruction is a lot better because when you’re actually doing it yourself, it’s a lot easier to retain,” said Airman 1st Class Chase Guggenbuehl, a student at the detachment and 11th Aircraft Maintenance Unit crew chief. “It makes you want to pay attention. It’s not just words on a screen. The actual tools and parts of the jet are right in front of you to help you see how it actually works.”
The feedback from the courses at Barksdale AFB and Minot AFB, North Dakota, have been so positive that it is now being used as a model for maintenance field training across the Air Force.
“It’s awesome to be a part of this capability and help other maintainers get the training they need to be effective and ultimately getting the aircraft off the ground and completing the mission,” Farrar said. “That is only possible when you have a team who is dedicated to what they do, care about their students and who are always looking for ways to be more impactful.”