MARINE CORPS AIR STATION FUTENMA, OKINAWA, JapanÂ â€” Between training exercises and deployments, the CH-46E Sea Knight helicopter is an asset used throughout the Marine Corps, said Maj. Cory Dekraai, an Ann Arbor, Mich. native and aircraft maintenance officer with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 265, Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force.
When the CH-46E is not flying a mission, aviation maintenance Marines are inspecting and working on the aircraft to prepare it for its next flight.
â€œEven with the onset of the MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, the CH-46E is still the backbone of Marine Corps aviation,â€ said Dekraai.
CH-46E pilots and crew chiefs perform inspections of the aircraft before and after each flight.
â€œPart of keeping the aircraft safe and long lasting is consistent and routine maintenance,â€Â said Dekraai.
â€œThe preflight planning and inspections ensure the aircraft is not being (unnecessarily) strained and is in good working condition,â€ he said.
Weather conditions, distance to travel, cargo weight, passenger weight and engine power all combine to determine the CH-46Eâ€™s capabilities.
To ensure there are no delays in flight plans due to last-minute complications, the maintenance Marines also look for hazards around the aircraft. Each morning, the Marines search the flight line for any foreign objects that could be sucked into the engines.
â€œWe all line up on the flight line and check for anything that isnâ€™t supposed to be there,â€ said Cpl. Paul Rathbun, a Shinglehouse, Penn. native and crew chief with HMM-265. â€œIf anything was to obstruct the exhaust, the engine would overheat and possibly warp.â€
Obstruction of the exhaust pipe is not the only complication crew chiefs and pilots look for during their inspections.
â€œInside the oil line are magnetic chips that attract iron buildup, and trigger a light on the dash board of the cockpit when those chips become full,â€ said Cpl. Phillip Dorion, Houston native and crew chief with the squadron.
Safety mechanisms such as this ensure that if one of the engines experiences trouble mid-flight, the second engine can take up the slack, he said.
â€œWe have to be careful when we fly over salt water because of the corrosion it causes,â€ said Rathbun. â€œIf we see any corrosion, we do a full fresh water wash down of the aircraft.â€
Salt-water corrosion is another discrepancy both crew chiefs and pilots look for during inspections.
â€œItâ€™sÂ important to have (multiple pairs) of eyes on this aircraft,â€ said Sgt. James Ryan, a St. Louis native and crew chief with HMM-265. â€œMarinesâ€™ lives depend on the integrity of our inspections.â€
12/10/2010Â By Lance Cpl. Kris B. DaberkoeÂ , Marine Corps Bases Japan
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