Whiteman maintainers keep B-2 Spirits flying

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Jazmin Smith
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Since it first arrived 22 years ago, the B-2 Spirit has been unparalleled in its ability to provide precision air power, thus shaping the mission here at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, to providing strategic deterrence, global power and combat support to combatant and joint force commanders... anytime, anywhere.

Day after day, a multitude of specialty shops under the 509th Maintenance Group work cohesively to keep a fleet of B-2's in flying condition and therefore profoundly supports the mission at Whiteman.

The long hours of on-the-job training, combined with frequent exercises, prepare the Airmen here to respond promptly and efficiently, even in less than ideal situations.

On April 23, 2015, an unprecedented avionics malfunction occurred over the Gulf of Mexico, causing a variety of issues on The Spirit of Georgia.

A team of specialists from Whiteman were immediately brought to MacDill Air Force Base, Florida to service the aircraft.

"To the best of the maintenance group's knowledge, no B-2 has ever diverted for a failure of this type in the history of our aircraft," said Master Sgt. Mark McBride, 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron production superintendent. "The maintenance required on this particular fault hasn't been seen before at Whiteman, and our team did fantastic.

"We spend every day learning our jobs and being proficient in doing our jobs," added McBride. "When they set up my team, they gave me experts. They gave me qualified personnel who were able to think outside the box and find a way to fix the aircraft safely and effectively. She's still flying to this day with no faults whatsoever."

Per procedure, the crew members were debriefed by the team of specialists. What usually takes 10 minutes took them nearly 90 to discuss in depth. The information provided by the pilots during this process, combined with diagnostics, was paramount in determining what issues the team had to face.

"If we ever have a maintenance problem, we always try to bring it back to Whiteman, so this was a pretty unique case for us," said Col. Chase McCown, 509th Maintenance Group commander. "Everyone performed very well, because what they ended up fixing was some very complex maintenance.

"It involved part of the bus system, which is the way the aircraft talks amongst all its different computers and different sub systems, almost like the nerve network of the aircraft," added McCown. "We found some problems in one of the buses that we think contributed to the whole cascading effect of problems they had with the jet."

During their assignment there, the team adapted to operating in an environment that didn't cater to the B-2. It took a lot of coordination with MacDill AFB and Northrop Grumman over the course of two weeks to return a safe and reliable aircraft back to Whiteman.

Distance was the biggest obstacle, since the team was far from a base set up to support the B-2, said Air Force Staff Sgt. Brian Schroeder, 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief. Three members from Northrop Grumman were able to contribute to the mission by performing the more extensive repairs.

"With the difficulty of the maintenance issue that we had to work, we decided that we wanted to capitalize on their knowledge, and they were key in helping us fix it," said McCown. "Northrop was a great asset.

"The willingness of the host to help you goes a long way in how quickly you are successful," added McCown. "MacDill was a great host for us."

Every day the team spends their time learning their jobs and refining the skills crafted on the flightline. They ensured quality repairs and were very professional in the way they conducted themselves.

"Given the complete failure of the avionics systems, my team went tip to tail on every system in the aircraft to make sure that it was not going to happen again and that we were confident in our repair," said McBride.

After conducting four engine runs with numerous built-in tests to make sure the aircraft was worthy of flight, maintainers from the 509th Maintenance Group returned home.