Ever wonder how those airplanes keep flying?
Maintenance practices by technicians following technical order manuals, of course. But what happens when the T.O. is vague? What happens when there are no more parts in supply and nobody has materials on hand to make that part, but the aircraft needs to fly that day?
Enter the depot liaison engineer.
Depot liaison engineers are formally educated engineers from one of the three air logistics complexes who deploy to expeditionary maintenance groups across the U.S. Central Command‘s area of responsibility.
There are four DLEs currently deployed within the AOR.
Together, the DLEs provide technical assistance for almost every aircraft in the AOR: B-1, KC-135, RC-135, F-15, F-16, C-130, A-10, HH-60, MQ-1 and MQ-9, to name a handful. DLEs provide the on-site support necessary to interpret T.O.s, provide technical drawings and coordinate expeditionary technical assistance requests. An ETAR disposition may be used as technical data when the T.O. has not given the necessary latitude to get an aircraft back into the fight.
In addition, DLEs have another vital certification: they are aircraft battle damage repair certified. This means they can forward deploy at a moment’s notice to design temporary repairs for an aircraft that has been damaged.
A few months ago, an MC-130 took on small-arms fire while on a mission. An ABDR team forward deployed to repair this aircraft, and it was determined the damage caused to the wing skin and vertical risers was beyond T.O. limits. With the help of the DLE, a permanent repair was installed and the aircraft safely returned to home station within two days of the original incident. The contributions of the DLE and ABDR team prevented weeks of aircraft downtime in a hostile zone.
The DLEs get excited talking about the effect of prior aging on the inelastic deformation behavior of polyimide resins in composites in high-energy states below the glass transition temperature.
However, they have embraced their status as geeks through their motto: no nerds = no birds!
By Capt. Bradley Diedrick and 1st. Lt. Justin Hand, www.379aew.afcent.af.mil
379th Expeditionary Maintenance Operations Squadron
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