The UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter is the workhorse aircraft of the Kansas Army National Guard, transporting personnel and equipment, assisting with firefighting and rescue operations and a host of other tasks. Keeping them flying safely takes a lot of maintenance on a regular basis.
Currently, the Black Hawks at the Army Aviation Support Facility #1 in Topeka are undergoing a more rigorous process known as Phase Maintenance Inspection. This maintenance is being conducted by a newly formed team at the Regional Aviation Phase Sustainment Center to make sure each helicopter is performing to its full potential.
“It takes seven weeks for the phase maintenance inspection,” said Capt. Anthony Picanso, the regional contracting officer representative for the RAPS-C program. “For us, it’s 38 working days. If there’s any additional maintenance like a gear box replacement that adds on to the seven weeks.”
During those seven weeks, a helicopter is pulled into the maintenance hangar and basically torn apart.
“We remove the engines. We take the rotor blades off, we take the flight controls out of them, we take the tail rotor off,” said Picanso. “We tear the aircraft down almost to the air frame, depending on what the level of maintenance requires.”
Each part is inspected and tested and replaced, if necessary. Once a helicopter is put together again, it is taken to the flight line to undergo ground and flight testing.
Sixteen contractors from Tyonek Services are working on the aircraft. Five of the team are traditional Kansas Guardsmen and one is a Kansas National Guard retiree. In addition to Kansas aircraft, Picanso said the team services aircraft from 13 other states and expects to complete 16 to 20 aircraft a year.