908 MXG gets a head start on learning basic rotary systems

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Shelby Thurman
  • 908th Airlift Wing

The 908th Maintenance Group aided the 908th Airlift Wing’s transition to the U.S. Air Force’s first MH139-A Grey Wolf helicopter Formal Training Unit by hosting classes on basic helicopter rotary systems July 10, 2022, at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.

The classes were led by Master Sgt. Mike Cutter, 908th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief and expediter, and Master Sgt. William Little, 908 AW flight safety noncommissioned officer in charge. Little has more than 20 years of experience as a helicopter mechanic and avionics technician at Fort Rucker, Alabama, and has worked on AH-64 Apache, OH-58D Kiowa, and the UH-72 Lakota platforms. Cutter is currently a C-130H Hercules crew chief and expediter, but has more than 35 years of helicopter experience from his time in the Marine Corps and the Vermont Army National Guard prior to joining the Air Force Reserve.

Staff Sgt. Troy Smith was also present at the briefings to give insight and answer questions based of his years of experience as a U.S. Army helicopter pilot, a civilian helicopter instructor pilot at Fort Rucker, Alabama, and as the current 908th Program Integration Office curriculum and syllabus subject matter expert.

The first class of the day was held for some of the members of the 908 AMXS and then a second class for some of the members of the 908 Maintenance Squadron. Each session consisted of two briefings where the mechanical features of a helicopter were shown and explained. The parts of a C-130H Hercules were compared and contrasted to the new helicopter so that the new aircraft would not be completely foreign to the maintainers when it was time for them to attend helicopter maintenance school.

The first of the briefings, given by Little, was about rotary wing principles and focused on the helicopter’s power plant and drive train. One of the many processes he demonstrated through images was how air enters the engine where it is cooled and then sent throughout the entire engine. He also showed the differences between a C-130H’s analogue engine display and a helicopter’s digital multifunction display.

“The main purpose of these briefings was to give everybody some clarity as to what kind of aircraft we will be getting and to see the main differences between them,” said Little.

He added that he personally tends to learn better when he is given information through briefings before being hands-on with new machines, that way he is better able to connect the schematics and diagrams to the physical machinery in front of him.

908 AW Airmen in attendance welcomed the lesson.

“It’s important to have briefings like this because it helps us get the idea of what we’re dealing with and what we will be working with in the future,” said Senior Airman Cameron Brock, 908 AMXS communication navigation technician.

The second briefing by Cutter focused on helicopter flight controls and rotor systems. He emphasized that since vibration is the biggest contributor to wear and tear for parts they have to really focus on the timing, weight, and balance of each the MH-139A Grey Wolf’s five blades.

Aside from teaching the mechanical features, Cutter and Little kept reiterating how all of the shops will be joining together. Little used his experience as a helicopter avionics technician and engine mechanic at Fort Rucker as an example of what was to come. Cutter reiterated Little’s point by saying that, because of how this aircraft is designed, they are all going to be working much more closely with each other and the members that work in operations.

“I think the instructors are doing well and having them as teachers helps prove the point that we will all be working together because [Little] is avionics and he’s teaching us about engines,” said Master Sgt. Anthony McGill, 908 MXS crew chief and the noncommissioned officer in charge of the repair and reclamation shop. “You don’t see that in the C-130 world.”

Cutter said that he hopes to use his 35 years of experience to help the maintainers have a leg up during the transition from fixed-wing to rotary aircraft.

“This was just a basic introduction to the rotor system and how it ties in with the flight controls, which ties into everything,” said Cutter. “But, this is a big mind shift coming from a C-130 where they think ‘this is my field and this is what I focus on,’ to working hand-in-hand with each other; and that rotor doesn’t move without all of these systems.”

Cutter said that he hoped the classes that he and Little provided will help the maintainers succeed not just at school, but in their future careers.

“We should seek knowledge and wisdom in all aspect of our lives, so that is why we are trying to give them the tools to help them succeed,” said Cutter.