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KADENA AIR BASE, Japan - Patrol Squadron (VP) 40 aircrewmen are combining teamwork and the latest technology to overhaul corrosion on the squadron's forward-deployed P-3C aircraft.
As newer P-8 reconnaissance aircraft await introduction into the fleet, VP-40 leadership has made preventative maintenance and corrosion control a top priority on their aging P-3C Orions . By taking ownership of the existing aircraft, VP-40 Sailors say they are extending the life of each aircraft.
"After a certain number of flight hours, we take the whole bird apart and check for corrosion and make sure everything works," said Aviation Machinist's Mate 3rd Class Vinh Tran. "Then, we mark corrosion points and document it on our computer systems."
VP-40 aircraft maintainers use these computer systems to update fleet and wing commanders of their progress in real time. By identifying corrosion and coordinating all the tools at their disposal, Tran says it improves the accountability and communication between VP-40 maintainers and other commands.
"Sometimes we have to replace parts, but since we have such a good system we can take apart, refurbish, and repair an entire aircraft in two to three weeks," said Tran.
Aviation Structural Mechanic 2nd Class Ruel Beck said that the real difficulty in these kinds of repairs is finding the corrosion. Beck said even small nuts and bolts can have corrosion in between metal threading, so maintainers have to perform an exhaustive search of the aircraft, internally and externally.
With an aluminum airframe, Beck said that the P-3C has unique challenges concerning corrosion. Different from rust on iron or steel, Beck said corroded aluminum has a different structure on the molecular level, requiring different methods to counteract.
"The biggest problem with corrosion is exfoliation corrosion, where the metal is expanding. In those cases, the corrosion acts similar to rust, weakening the strength of the metal. However, we have to use different tools to tackle it," said Beck. "Using the right chemicals and equipment, we can get rid of exfoliation corrosion quickly."
Beck didn't appear worried about the challenge of taking apart and fixing an entire aircraft in less than three weeks. Even at the rapid pace of operations in the 7th Fleet area of responsibility, Beck said that VP-40 maintainers are ready for anything.
"Anything corroded, we're going to find and we're going to fix," said Beck. "It's just that simple."