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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Shinglehouse Native Helps Keep Marine Helicopters Safe

Story by Lance Cpl. Kris Daberkoe Small

OKINAWA, Japan - Between training exercises and deployments, the CH-46E Sea Knight helicopter is an asset used throughout the Marine Corps, said Maj. Cory Dekraai, an Ann Arbor, Mich., native and aircraft maintenance officer with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 265, Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force.

When the CH-46E is not flying a mission, aviation maintenance Marines are inspecting and working on the aircraft to prepare it for its next flight.

“Even with the onset of the MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, the CH-46E is still the backbone of Marine Corps aviation,” said Dekraai.

CH-46E pilots and crew chiefs perform inspections of the aircraft before and after each flight.

“Part of keeping the aircraft safe and long lasting is consistent and routine maintenance,” said Dekraai.

“The preflight planning and inspections ensure the aircraft is not being [unnecessarily] strained and is in good working condition,” he said.

Weather conditions, distance to travel, cargo weight, passenger weight and engine power all combine to determine the CH-46E’s capabilities.

To ensure there are no delays in flight plans due to last-minute complications, the maintenance Marines also look for hazards around the aircraft. Each morning, the Marines search the flight line for any foreign objects that could be sucked into the engines.

“We all line up on the flight line and check for anything that isn’t supposed to be there,” said Cpl. Paul Rathbun, a Shinglehouse, Pa., native and crew chief with HMM-265. “If anything was to obstruct the exhaust, the engine would overheat and possibly warp.”

Obstruction of the exhaust pipe is not the only complication crew chiefs and pilots look for during their inspections.

“Inside the oil line are magnetic chips that attract iron buildup, and trigger a light on the dash board of the cockpit when those chips become full,” said Cpl. Phillip Dorion, Houston native and crew chief with the squadron.

Safety mechanisms such as this ensure that if one of the engines experiences trouble mid-flight, the second engine can take up the slack, he said.

“We have to be careful when we fly over salt water because of the corrosion it causes,” said Rathbun. “If we see any corrosion, we do a full fresh water wash down of the aircraft.”

Salt-water corrosion is another discrepancy both crew chiefs and pilots look for during inspections.

“It’s important to have [multiple pairs] of eyes on this aircraft,” said Sgt. James Ryan, a St. Louis native and crew chief with HMM-265. “Marines’ lives depend on the integrity of our inspections.”


Anonymous said...

Proud to know you, Paul!

Anonymous said...

We're all proud of you Paul! :)

Anonymous said...

So proud of Cpl. Rathbun....he graduated with our son and you couldnt ask for a nicer guy!

Way to go Paul!

Anonymous said...

Shinglehouse is proud of its native son! We salute you Paul!
Thank you for all you do.