Maintainers, training squadron collaborate on new F-35 hydraulics course

  • Published
  • By Micah Garbarino
  • 388th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

When an F-35A Lightning II pilot moves the flight controls, oil reservoirs, pumps, lines, actuators, valves, all go to work as part of the aircraft’s hydraulic system, moving fins and rudders and more.

A new 40-hour course, developed by the 372nd Training Squadron Detachment 3, in conjunction with the 388th Maintenance Group, is providing hands-on hydraulic systems experience to both new and experienced flight line maintainers here. The first group of Airmen recently graduated and another validation course wrapped up Dec. 18.

The course combines video modules, developed by the 367th Training Support Squadron here, with hands-on training provided by instructors from the 372nd TRS. During the course, instructors are able to both teach, certify and sign-off students on more than 30 tasks.

One of the most helpful maintenance tools in the F-35 is the advanced prognostic health management system, which takes a snapshot of a jet’s health and provide Airmen with the information needed to make a fix. However, when it comes to the hands-on work, a more in-depth knowledge may be required to identify and repair a deeper issue.

When instructor Staff Sgt. David Van Hoomissen was a F-35 crew chief with the 388th AMXS, a small piece of a shredded check valve in the hydraulic system was obstructing the lines in an F-35. He had to consult engineers at Lockheed Martin and wait until they supplied detailed instructions on how to disassemble and clear each line with compressed air.

“This platform relies a lot on software to troubleshoot and report problems within the hydraulic system,” said Van Hoomissen, now a tactical aircraft maintenance instructor with the 372nd.  “Which is great, but that was a case where you don’t always want to have to rely on software or have to wait on instructions to get an aircraft back in the rotation.”

The goal for the course is to provide the foundational knowledge for maintainers to be able to complete most hydraulic troubleshooting and simple fixes more efficiently. 

“The knowledge of in-depth system theory for hydraulics has kind of withered away, there hasn't been formal education dedicated to troubleshooting and servicing the hydraulic system on this aircraft,” said Tech. Sgt. Emil Wodicka a tactical aircraft maintenance instructor with the 372nd Training Squadron Detachment 3. “In this course we break down the science behind hydraulics and then build from there to the point where students can read engineering schematics to troubleshoot and identify problems on their own.”

“I’ve really enjoyed doing some of these tasks that we haven’t done before, and don’t really normally have the time to learn,” said Airman 1st Class Braxton Hill a new F-35A crew chief.

The course has recently been accredited by the Community College of the Air Force and students will receive 2 college credits upon graduation. It is also in the validation process to be rolled out at F-35A maintenance units Air Force-wide.