Why we pull engines
By Capt. Jamie Rempel with Tech. Sgt. Francis Larucci, 62nd Aircraft Maintenance Unit
/ Published June 13, 2007
LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- The business of aircraft maintenance demands perfection; documentation mirrors work performed, resulting in safe, airworthy aircraft.
This past week on the 62d Aircraft Maintenance Unit ramp, Spike maintainers continued upholding the 56th Maintenance Group standard of excellence as they pulled an engine for scheduled maintenance.
A variety of reasons exist for pulling an aircraft engine. Being a single engine airframe accentuates the importance of maintaining a safe and reliable source of power for the F-16. This week a motor was pulled for scheduled maintenance. Other times, the engine must be removed and replaced due to internal damage caused by extended use or foreign object damage. Additionally, some internal engine parts possess a specific number of operating hours. These parts - time change items - are replaced when they reach their time limits and are sent to the depot to be inspected, rebuilt and returned to service. Engines are also removed for aircraft inspections to facilitate access to the engine bay.
The process of removing an engine from the aircraft is more difficult than it appears. First, the technicians ensure the aircraft meets the proper configuration to safely remove the engine. All of the aircraft engine bay access panels are removed. Then the engine interfacing components are disconnected. These components include bleed air, fuel supply, oil indication and engine interface connections. At this point the engine removal and installation trailer is connected to the aircraft.
After trailer installation the weight of the engine is transferred from the aircraft to the trailer. Then the engine is disconnected, via the three rear mounts, and the engine is rolled back away from the aircraft. Rolling the engine back is a very critical part of the job, due to the extremely close proximity of the engine to the airframe. Great precautions ensure the engine and the airframe do not come into contact as the engine weighs more than two tons; any contact with the airframe would result in damage. Once the engine is rolled back onto the trailer, the trailer supports the engine by the front mount. Then the engine, secured on the trailer, is rolled away from the aircraft.
Once an engine is removed on the flightline, the engine is towed away to be overhauled by the 56th Component Maintenance Squadron Propulsion Flight.
Maintaining the oldest F-16s in the Air Force inventory is no easy task and it's a true team effort. However, due to the world-class maintainers found across the 56th Maintenance Group, Luke continues training the very best fighter pilots and maintainers, and ensuring the superiority of the number one Air Force in the history of the world.