View Full Version : A quicker fix for helos

07-13-05, 06:34 AM
July 18, 2005
A quicker fix for helos
CH-53E system could shorten maintainers’ workday
By Gordon Lubold
Times staff writer

The Corps is installing a piece of gear in its most “maintenance-hungry” bird in an attempt to get wrench-turners home on time, officials said.
The CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter is getting the Integrated Mechanical Diagnostics System, designed to help maintainers monitor the aircraft’s engine, drive train and rotor system and reduce the need to perform some types of time-consuming maintenance.

The system can save as much as $60 million per year in “track and balance” maintenance costs alone, mostly because it will require fewer flights to make adjustments and alignments of the rotor blades, officials said. But the diagnostic system also should have a direct impact on the lives of Marines who maintain the CH-53. Its complex machinery requires more calibration of its rotors and drive train than other helos.

“What we’re trying to do with this system is to take our maintainers to somewhere they haven’t been before — supper,” said Col. Paul Croisetiere, the program manager for the H-53 heavy lift helicopters at Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, Md.

The system is made by Goodrich Corporation’s Fuel and Utility Systems in Vergennes, Vt. Maintainers will find it cuts the amount of time it takes to conduct track and balance maintenance on the CH-53’s seven enormous blades.

For example, officials estimate that the new system allows maintainers to take an average of just one flight to perform track and balance adjustments — down from the average three flights it took to conduct that maintenance without IMDS. Those adjustments must be made because improperly aligned rotor blades can cause wear on the machinery and, at worst, a mishap, officials said.

The system also helps main-tainers pinpoint a problem and fix it instead of repairing or replacing components on the system hoping to pre-empt a failure, Croisetiere said.

“There is great potential savings here,” he said.

A replacement for the CH-53, first built in 1980, will not show up for at least another decade. The IMDS helps to sustain the platform until then, Croisetiere said.

The system passed operational evaluation in February and will be fielded in up to 12 aircraft by fall, said Lt. Col. Bradley Brown, deputy program manager for the H-53s at NavAir. Officials hope to install the system on all 147 Super Stallions as funding and availability permits. Each kit costs about $400,000.

The system is also being considered for the UH-1 Huey and Navy MH-60 Sea Hawk helicopters, they said.

The system employs a series of about 20 sensors throughout the plane’s gearbox, engines, drive shaft, rotor and other components that tell maintainers if something falls out of alignment or needs tweaking. Unlike the old system used to monitor calibration and vibration and other conditions, the IMDS is permanently installed on the plane.

Maj. Kevin Dobzniak, assistant maintenance officer for Marine Helicopter Training Squadron 302 at Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C., said the system halves the flying time maintainers need to perform the critical tests.

“Now, you just get in the aircraft, and the pilot can run the entire test from the cockpit,” he said.

Dobzniak said the system takes a lot of the guesswork out of determining what could be wrong with an aircraft and gives pilots and maintainers a heads-up on other issues they might not have been able to spot until it was a problem.

“Instead of having to guess what the problem was, we can download the card from the IMDS, and we can bring up the specific portion of the flight to find out exactly what was going on,” he said.

The old-school way of identifying problems was far more cumbersome. It could take as much as two hours for maintainers to lug a computer, cables and other equipment to the helo and set it up. It could take all day to run all the diagnostic tests.

Staff Sgt. David Hansen, a crew chief on the CH-53E assigned to the quality-assurance division at New River, said the system allows them to complete rotor adjust- ments by midday. That leaves the rest of the day to get other maintenance done and then get home to the family.

“It cuts down the work day a little bit,” he said.