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Introducing the Aerial Maintenance Unit Release date 29.03.2018
The AMU (Aerial Maintenance Unit), located in Tel Nof AFB, is responsible for maintenance of almost all of the IAF’s aircraft
Carmel Stern | Photography: Koral Devir

In December 1976, the first “Baz” (F-15) aircraft were integrated into the IAF. 41 years later, the aircraft – used in complex sorties, high-speed and -altitude flights and training scenarios – continue to take off on a daily basis from Tel Nof AFB.  This is all thanks to the AMU (Aerial Maintenance Unit).

Intensive Care
The AMU is responsible for 30 different aircraft. The term “aircraft” refers to airplanes and helicopters, when in fact, they deal with decommissioned, disassembled and colorless aircraft. F-15 and F-16 aircraft, transport and attack helicopters as well as transport aircraft are stationed in hangars referred to as “workshops”.

F-15 fighter jets which enter the workshops undergo one of two possible processes: either procedures to extend their lifespan, or periodic inspections that every aircraft has to undergo once every seven to ten years. “The IAF Technical Division’s maintenance work is well-planned. When maintenance ends, the aircraft returns to the condition it was in when it first arrived from the manufacturer - possibly even better”, explained Lt. Col. Ben Yenovich, Commander of the Manufacture Planning and Supervision Department and deputy commander of the AMU. “The AMU takes old aircraft, improves their structure and extends their lifespan”.

An Extensive Process
An extensive planning process is required before the "Baz" aircraft is integrated into the unit, as part of which requirements for the integration are mapped out. "When the aircraft arrives at the unit, it undergoes an initial assessment", said Lt. Col. Ben. "We assess the damages and plan our course of action. Then we begin the maintenance work".

The planning team's job does not end with the integration of the aircraft into its operational squadron. They follow up on the same aircraft's progress and update the schedules on a daily basis. "Every day, we have dozens of unexpected events. For example, technicians who open certain panels in the aircraft and discover broken parts underneath. Even though we didn't plan on replacing those parts, we have to", explained Maj. Moshe Ben Hemo, Commander of the Operation and Synchronization Branch. "If we don't have an extra part in stock, we have to manufacture it from scratch. We bring in engineers who draw up a prototype, which is then sent to the manufacturing plant. Later, that same part is painted and coated and only then does it return to the aircraft. This entire process is performed in parallel with the rest of our maintenance work, and we synchronize the entirety of our work in hopes to keep up with our main schedules".

Block Tower
"An aircraft arriving at the AMU undergoes a process where it goes from an entire aircraft to its components. We remove the paint layer and it undergoes a number of extensive tests to check for structural damage or cracks", elaborated Lt. Col. Ben. Each aircraft goes through the same process. Maj. Tomer Dahari, Commander of the F-15 Workshop, likens it to a block tower: "Just like you can't put the top block of a tower before the one below it, you can't attach the aircraft's wings before attaching the wheels and the landing gear".

An important part of the process comes after concluding the tests and completing maintenance on the aircraft – the test run. "The test run occurs on the ground in a designated flight simulator and the aircraft is operated just like it would be in the air. At the end of the test run, we list the errors, handle them and prepare the aircraft for an additional test run", elaborated Maj. Tomer. "If everything goes as planned, the second test run will be followed with a test flight. This is the aircraft's first flight after being completely dismantled, so it is performed by experienced pilots from the Flight Test Squadron. The pilots perform tests in the air and decide if it is fit for flight after landing. Upon their approval, the aircraft is painted and ends up as good as new".

Maj. Moshe concluded: "Every day, we face challenges that nobody has ever faced before and we have to solve them ourselves. We can't copy our solutions from other units who have faced the same issues because they don't exist. We create things from the ground up every single day".