JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Airmen of the 3rd and 176th maintenance squadrons combined their diverse skillsets to complete one common mission, the home-station check (HSC) at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, the week of March 26, 2018.
An HSC is an in-depth, four-day scheduled inspection of a C-17 Globemaster III. Each of JBER’s C-17s receives an HSC approximately every 180 days.
“The HSC is the backbone of C-17 maintenance because without it, many potential discrepancies wouldn’t be found until they became a major problem, which could keep an airplane on the ground,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Chad Lemaster, 176th MXS HSC work lead.
The vast number and varied types of inspections and checks require a force of multiple career fields to play their part in the HSC process, whether it's doing the maintenance or providing the support. Some of the career fields involved are crew chiefs, propulsion flight, engine maintainers, avionics, communication navigation, hydraulics and aerospace repair.
With all these Airmen working together, coordination and teamwork play a huge role in getting all the maintenance done and staying within the allotted time constraints.
“When you have so many agencies working together, and fitting together like a jigsaw puzzle, you can have a plan, but things don’t always go according to plan,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Joshua Coleman, 3rd MXS HSC section chief. “Our guys are extremely flexible, and when scheduling or processes need to be adjusted or changed completely, our team adapts and overcomes like no other team in the Air Force.”
Before the inspection phase of the process begins, each aircraft will receive a full wash to remove any grease and dirt from the plane, which aids in corrosion control and makes the aircraft easier to inspect.
There are four different types of HSC inspections. The type of HSC process an aircraft requires determines the routine checks performed. These processes can include anything from tire pressure checks, oil changes, electrical and gear inspections to hydraulic checks and flight deck panel-checks.
Some of the most important discrepancies to find are cracks in the engine, fan blades, anything with the main landing gear and flight controls.
After the HSC inspection, the aircraft is painted, aiding in corrosion control.
Total force integration is at play during the inspections as Airmen from active duty and Air National Guard units merge their skillsets to keep JBER’s carrier aircraft prime for duty.
“We meld two different cultures together,” Lemaster said. “Active duty provides one culture and Guard provides another. Meshing them together and figuring out what needs to be done in support of the aircraft has been great. There are differences in our schedules and approaches, but overall, we have an airplane to work on. We come together and do a fantastic job of integrating to accomplish the bigger picture.”
Behind-the-scenes maintenance checks can lead to savings in time and money and can also save lives.
“Alaska is an extreme environment, and the airplanes take a real beating up here with the amount of time we’re flying them, whether that be for real-world missions around the world, or local training,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Christopher Bair, 517th Airlift Squadron C-17 instructor pilot. “If it weren’t for our dedicated maintenance teams doing checks like the HSC, our aircraft could break and become unusable.
“These checks really allow maintenance to keep the aircraft running in top shape and maintain an operational status, which allows us pilots to complete the mission and our training. So we’re really thankful for the hard work they do and how much time they spend keeping the airplanes fit to fight.”
After the extensive HSC inspection is complete, the airlift force’s most flexible cargo aircraft returns to the fleet, ready to tackle its mission of rapid strategic delivery.