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Avionics Shop works around clock to repair vital aircraft parts for C-17s worldwide

By 1st Lt. Michaela Judge | Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs | May 25, 2010

JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. -- While many of us are heading to bed at the end of a long day, Airmen from the 437th Maintenance Squadron Avionics Flight work through the night in order to ensure vital repairs are made on parts necessary for C-17s to conduct day-to-day operations.

The Avionics Intermediate Systems Shop, working 24 hours a day, five days a week, houses only 20 percent of Air Mobility Command's avionics test equipment capabilities, yet provides 50 percent of all avionics equipment repairs AMC-wide, said Master Sgt. George Hans, Avionics Flight chief.

"These repairs include avionics parts from Charleston, U.S. Air Forces in Europe, Central Command, the United Kingdom and Hungary," he said.

The Avionics Shop here, one of only 11 worldwide, is responsible for repairs on 37 separate avionics line replaceable units on the C-17. These LRUs consist of panels and computers, which control areas such as fuel, environmental, communications, mission display, flight control, airdrop, radar and warning systems on the aircraft, said Sergeant Hans.

This type of repair work is accomplished by 11 active-duty Airmen, three Air Reserve Technicians and nine civilians.

Despite having only 23 personnel in the Avionics Shop, their mission continues to have a large impact on C-17 operations worldwide.

"We currently repair on average 2,000 avionics units per year, and return 96 percent of the units that arrive in Charleston to service," said Sergeant Hans.

Senior Airman William Chambers, 437 MXS journeyman, is one of the 11 active-duty Airmen who provide hands-on repair support for parts delivered to Charleston.

"A normal day for me in the shop consists of picking up a part delivered from supply and bringing it over to our workstations to begin repairs," he said.

From there, Airman Chambers said he attaches the broken unit to a test station, which simulates a C-17, using a piece of equipment called the Interface Test Adapter in order to measure the responsiveness of the part and to test various aspects of the unit to include line of sight on display images, fuel levels, signals and more.

During testing, when something is identified as wrong with the part, there are different options for repair, said Airman Chambers.

"We can either order through base supply, or use our forward supply point where certain common parts are kept on hand for routine repairs," he said.

"After a LRU is repaired, we clean the part, do paint touch-ups if needed and have a 7-level inspect the part before its packaged and put back on the shelf for supply to pick up."

This entire process, Sergeant Hans said, takes approximately 20 hours to complete - an impressive 28 hours faster than the AMC standard for these repairs.

After supply takes the part, it is shipped, often to a deployed location, for the C-17 needing the repaired LRU.

In the past, personnel in a deployed location needing LRU repairs for a C-17 would have to ship the parts back to the states for work. However, an avionics shop recently stood up in the Middle East to help service some of these aircraft, said Sergeant Hans.

While there are still logistics needed to establish a fully operational shop overseas, Sergeant Hans said the new work center will eventually provide direct support for C-17 aircraft in the area of responsibility, reducing shipping costs of spare parts, and relieving some of the workload here.

In addition to maintaining the LRUs, the Avionics Shop here is also responsible for servicing flight simulator and maintenance trainer parts.

In fact, their work on these units helped to reduce repair time from 130 days to four by providing support in-house instead of sending the part off to a contractor for repair, Sergeant Hans said. This practice saved $333,000 last year and was a benchmark idea that other bases have used.

This new process, along with improvements made to help identify and correct discrepancies on C-17 heads up displays, earned this shop the Chief of Staff Team Excellence Award for 2009 from Air Force Reserve Command.

"I believe we are the best avionics back shop in AMC, and our numbers show it," said Tech. Sgt. Tarean Neville, C-17 Avionics Intermediate Shop non-commissioned officer in charge. "The awards we have received are the result of our civilians, reservists and active duty stepping up so that we can provide the support needed to the AOR."

The professionalism of the Avionics Shop and the dedication they provide to the warfighter overseas is recognized not only by the commands they support, but also by Joint Base Charleston leadership.

"The amount of work our Avionics Shop does every year is nothing short of amazing, and we couldn't do it without our 315th brethren, awesome civilians and incredible Boeing partners!" said Maj. Sara Huiss, 437 MXS commander.


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