"Queen Bee" keeps PACAF jets prepared for the fight

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Robert Barnett
  • 35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Without it, there is no power, no function. The ability to continue will cease. Like the heart to a human, the engine to a jet is the same.

So where do you turn when the heart of the jet stops working? Fighter squadrons throughout the Pacific region all go to one place - the "Queen Bee."

Officially known as the Propulsion Flight, the name stems from being the main hub for all engine maintenance performed for Misawa, Kunsan, and Osan Air Base, said Jet Engine Intermediate Maintenance (JEIM) assistant Tech. Sgt. Bradford Perry.

The maintainers of the flight take on the "heart" of the jet for surgery here.

The maintainers working in the Queen Bee are responsible for the F-16 engine from start to finish.

This includes taking the engine completely apart to inspect and fix all damages, putting them back together, testing them, and finally, sending it back out to support the wings missions.

Airman 1st Class Jonathan Mendez, an Aerospace Propulsion Apprentice assigned to the Queen Bee, came into the Air Force to be a maintainer. After a three-month-long technical school at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, he was stationed here, among his top choices.

"I've learned a lot more here than at tech school because I'm working hands-on with an actual engine," he said. "The main mission is to help the mission here, in Osan and Kunsan. We're working hard to get what we need to get done, done."

Recently, the Queen Bee received an engine from Osan Air Base, Korea with compressor damage.

Korea is only capable of minor maintenance but relies on Misawa for major repairs.

As surgeons work with colleagues to complete surgeries, the maintainers work in the same manner. They do this with three teams, called crews.

One of the crews is performed a receiving inspection where it was taken apart in a tear-down process. This process involves carefully removing the individual outer parts and getting into the core of the engine where the compressor is.

The purpose of the receiving inspection is to gain open access to the damaged parts and find "whatever the root damage is," Sergeant Perry said. "Right now we're fixing the 'heart'."

They use a small video camera called a borescope. This inspection is conducted to get visuals on the smaller areas that would otherwise require additional measures to access, such as the engine's blades. They replace the damaged parts and put it all back together per technical data, because a single bolt out of place could cause major damage. The entire process can take hours or months due to parts availability. They then test the engine to make sure it works properly.

The engine is tested in the Test Cell facility, also called the Hush House. The Hush House is a soundproof room designed to safely contain a running jet engine on a trailer while still being able to observe it and make any adjustments. This process usually takes about a day, according to aerospace propulsion craftsman Tech. Sergeant Adam Nichols. It then returns to the JEIM for a final inspection and quality control by a five and seven level technician. Once all bases are covered, the engine is then placed onto the spare line or wrapped and shipped back to Korea.

"The spare line is what we call all of our serviceable engines," said Sergeant Perry. "If an F-16 has an engine problem on the flightline and they can't fix it out there, they remove the engine and give it to us and we'll give them a serviceable one from our spare line."

The Queen Bee keeps Misawa's, Osan, and Kunsan missions running by keeping the jets flying.

"Without the engine, it's just a static display," said Production Supervisor Staff Sgt. Estil Fields.