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Prepare, wash, recover: 317th AMXS improves wash program

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Emily Copeland
  • 7th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

The 317th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron assigned to Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, recently transitioned to a newly-adopted wash process in April, which cuts down the wash time of the aircraft by over 50 percent.

With the flying tempo and operations of the C-130J Super Hercules, maintaining the airframe is imperative to the mission success of the 317th Airlift Wing.

The C-130 is the workhorse of the U.S. Air Force and it is the only aircraft with the capabilities to land on almost any surface. With the constant deployment rotations to desert countries such as Qatar, Kuwait and Djibouti, Africa, the planes come back to the U.S. in need of cleaning from the dirt, debris and engine exhaust.

“It’s important to have the planes on a wash rotation so we can keep them flying and completing their mission,” said Senior Airman Justin Purcell, 317th AMXS C-130J crew chief. “There is no better feeling than watching a plane take off to complete a sortie or mission and knowing you are the reason it’s flying.”

When the C-130 is brought in for a wash, it is placed in a non-flying status which only occurs every 180 days or shorter, depending on the necessary maintenance needed for that specific aircraft. For Dyess, the average wash time from beginning to finish was approximately 48 hours before the new wash program was put into place.

In April, several members of the 317th AMXS visited Dyess’ sister C-130 wing, the 19th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., where they were given a tour of the C-130 wash rack hangar. During the tour, the members spoke with Airmen who helped develop a program which cut the wash process by over 50 percent.

“After visiting Little Rock’s hangar and meeting their maintainers, I really took the time to break down our wash process at home and improve the overall completion time of the wash,” said Tech. Sgt. Kerry Reyes, 317th AMXS wash program day shift supervisor. “I helped create the Critical Process Improvement team to ensure the process was possible and could be correctly put into place.”

The average wash time from start to finish was approximately 48 hours before the new wash program was put into place. After the CPI team made the improvements such as training and workload division, the total wash time decreased by 27 hours.

“With the new wash process, you can tell a huge difference in aircraft availability because the wash is now more effective,” said 2nd Lt. Dan Boeke, 317th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron flight commander. “But the biggest takeaway to these changes is the time being given back to the Airmen.”

The CPI team was created with the sole purpose to find issues, improve them and put processes into action. Coordination between units such as maintenance and operations made the change over easier by allowing the squadrons to each have an input on what would make the wash program more effective.

“Our team has spent a tremendous amount of time researching and coming up with new ideas to increase the productivity of this program,” said Reyes. “As a supervisor, it’s your job to look after your Airmen and lead by example. This improved wash process impacts the Airmen the most, by allowing them to spend more time in their core jobs as maintainers and less time completing an undesirable task.”

As a part of the recently adopted process, new equipment is due to be purchased to replace the existing wash suits being used. The impact of the new wash suits are expected to increase the durability and comfort for Airmen using the suits for more than 12 hours at a time. The suits, much like Little Rock’s, will have cooling packs placed inside the rubber overalls and are designed to stay at a constant 55 degrees for over 3 and a half hours in 100 degree weather.

“This entire process has been a game changer since the very beginning,” said Reyes. “It’s my goal to keep pushing ideas to leadership in hopes that we can make a positive change for the Airmen.”

The Air Force vision statement says it all: The World’s greatest Air Force – powered by Airmen, fueled by innovation.