KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --
Behind every mission-ready aircraft lay countless Airmen dedicated to the proper maintenance and care of all facets of the weapon system.
The Airmen of the 58th Maintenance Squadron’s Test Cell and Engine Shop have the important responsibility of rebuilding, recertifying and testing helicopter engines for the UH-1N Huey and HH-60G Pave Hawk, for not only Kirtland’s inventory, but other bases as well.
“The engines are what keep these things in the air,” said Staff Sgt. Daniel Talerico, 58th MXS jet engine Test Cell operator. “It is critical [the engines] get out there safely and are maintained properly.”
The two helicopter engines the squadron works on are the Pratt and Whitney T400, for the Huey, and General Electric T700, for the Pave Hawk. These engines take about 11, and five to six days to rebuild, respectively. While the HH-60 is a combat search and rescue platform in Air Force Special Operations Command, the UH-1N is used to support missile-field operations in Air Force Global Strike Command.
A new T400 engine costs around $350,000, while a rebuilt one costs about $180,000. A new T700 costs the Air Force about $600,000, but the MXS Airmen can rebuild them for $82,000. This nets a significant savings for the Air Force, said Tech. Sgt. Carlos Lucero, 58th MXS test cell section chief.
“We take T400 and T700 helicopter engines, tear them completely down and build them back up and inspect them,” said Airman 1st Class Kyle Morris, 58th MXS aerospace propulsion apprentice. “We are the only base that works on the Huey’s engines, so we are always receiving engines from other bases.”
After the engine shop rebuilds the engines, they are sent across base to the test cell to fully tested and certified. The cell ensures the rebuilt engines have no faults, and perform within set parameters.
“We make sure these engines are ready to fly safely for the duration of its cycle,” said Talerico.
Safe, rebuilt engines and a savings for the Air Force are all possible thanks to the hard work of the 58th MXS’s civilian, active-duty and guard Airmen. Look up the next time a Kirtland helicopter flies by, it’s up there providing valuable training to aircrew thanks to the 58th MXS.