RISO mission comes to an end

Aircraft maintainer Tech Sgt. Jospeh Kidwell, right, hands aircraft forms for a C-5 aircraft to Master Sgt.Gerald Overton, a flight engineer from the 439th Airlift Wing, March 6 marking the end of the isochronal inspection program at the 167th Airlift Wing. The C-5 from Westover Air Reserve Base was the final aircraft to undergo an isochronal inspection at the Martinsburg Air National Guard Base.(Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Emily Beightol-Deyerle)

Aircraft maintainer Tech Sgt. Jospeh Kidwell, right, hands aircraft forms for a C-5 aircraft to Master Sgt.Gerald Overton, a flight engineer from the 439th Airlift Wing, March 6 marking the end of the isochronal inspection program at the 167th Airlift Wing. The C-5 from Westover Air Reserve Base was the final aircraft to undergo an isochronal inspection at the Martinsburg Air National Guard Base.(Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Emily Beightol-Deyerle)

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- The 167th Airlift Wing's regional isochronal inspection mission came to an end with the conclusion of its final C-5 aircraft inspection on March 6, 2015.

The wing had served as one of the Air Force's three regional ISO hubs for more than eight years since the mission was announced in December 2006.

An isochronal inspection is an extensive examination and maintenance of the entire airframe and its systems that seeks to increase the overall performance and safety of the aircraft. The regional hub program was launched in 2007 to improve the mission capabilities of the Air Force's C-5 fleet.

"It's setup as preventative maintenance," said Master Sgt. Harry Sinex, a 167th isochronal coordinator. "Every aircraft is required to undergo an inspection every 420 days."

There are three different levels of ISO inspections, minor, major and depo. Each level of inspection is more extensive than the last and requires more of the plane to be taken apart. As a minor hub, the 167th Iso team, which was made up of most of the 167th Maintenance Group, had roughly 2,500 tasks that had to be done for each aircraft during the inspection.

"A task is just a basic write up that said what we had to do," said Sinex.

"Each task has multiple parts and sub tasks that need to be accomplished. Total, there are more like 10,000 items that need to be accomplished for each inspection."

The team fixed any items that they found on the checklist that needed to be repaired if it could be done at a local level. In addition to the items on the inspection list, the ISO team frequently went above and beyond, repairing items that they noticed during the inspection, but were not part of the official inspection.

When the wing first received the regional ISO mission, the Maintenance Group was still new to the C-5 and its systems. While they had performed ISO inspections on the smaller C-130s, the C-5 inspection process required more manpower and was more indepth.

"We started this process from scratch," said Master Sgt. James Buckley, a 167th ISO coordinator. "We only had the C-5s for about a year when we received the regional ISO mission. We didn't really have the right stands or tools that we needed at first, we had to build all of that up ourselves with a small group of people."

The C-5 regional ISO program was the first of its kind in the United States Air Force and was still being worked out when the wing received the mission. Early on, the team worked with its counterparts from the other two regional hubs at Dover Air Force Base, Del. and the Westover Air Reserve Base, Mass., to develop and streamline the process, while also implementing their own variation to the inspection program.

"From the beginning, we were determined to have a paperless process," Sinex said. "We were also able to save a lot of money by fixing things locally and building our own parts if we could."

Over the eight years as one of the regional hubs, the 167th team performed at a high level, often with less manpower than they were authorized. Even at the peak of their manning, the Maintenance Group was well short of the 120 slots allotted to them for Iso inspections, including the contingent of active duty Airmen that were assigned to the wing to assist with the regional program.

Despite this, the inspection team averaged a 39 day ISO inspection cycle per aircraft. In total, the team serviced 63 aircraft from eight different bases, counting the 167th.

While their average total inspection time was more than the other two ISO hubs, when manpower is taken into account, the wing was hitting similar marks as their counter parts, Sinex said.

As the Air Force transitions to a leaner fleet, cut backs mean that many of the older C-5s are being retired, decreasing the maintenance demand for the airframe. Due to this decrease, the regional ISO inspection mission has come to an end as the 167th transitions away from the C-5 to the C-17 Globemaster III.

Though the C-17 doesn't currently require an ISO inspection, the Maintenance Group has already seen the effect of their experience on their ability to work with the C-17, Buckley said.

"Our first Home Station Check, which is a less extensive inspection for the C-17, we got done in nine work days," Buckley said. "The other bases that we have been in contact with have taken double that time for their first HSC. We are hitting numbers in our first HSCs that bases that have been in the C-17 business for three years are just now hitting. That's all because of the expertise we gained from building our own regionalized ISO process."

While the Maintenance Group worked closely on the Regional ISO Inspection Program, it wouldn't have been possible without all of the other shops on base that contributed to the process, especially the Logistical Readiness Squadron who ordered and coordinated all the parts needed for repairs, Buckley said.