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New F-16 trainer provides vital real-world experience

Airman Naim Rasheeb hooks up support brace in preparation to remove an engine from an F-16 at the 361st Training Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Harry Tonemah).

Airman Naim Rasheeb hooks up support brace in preparation to remove an engine from an F-16 at the 361st Training Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Harry Tonemah).

SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- The 361st Training Squadron's F-16 Engine Removal and Installation course took a step closer to providing real-world experiences when it received a new maintenance trainer. 

Personnel from the course received the trainer fabricated by the 982nd Maintenance Squadron Trainer Development Flight in early May. It has allowed Airmen-in-training to get hands on experience with engines they will pull in the field. 

"This has been a great move for us," said master instructor Spencer Adams. "(The Airmen) are getting a much more real world experience than what they used to." 

Mr. Adams and Albert DeRubbio, another instructor in the course, said the appearance of the trainer might not be different from what was used before until the panels are removed and the F-110 General Electric engine is pulled. 

The course received the original trainer in the mid-90s and requested a five-man team from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, to come to Sheppard and modify the airframe so Airmen could remove and reinstall the engine. A bar created by the team began to degrade and created a safety hazard for Airmen. 

Mr. Adams said the trainer was taken out of the building, but was replaced with an F-16 model that housed an F-100 Pratt & Whitney engine. He explained early F-16 models carried the F-100, but later versions began using the F-110. 

Although the engines appear the same, pulling the F-100 and F-110 is different because of the variations in the configurations. 

In order to prepare mission-ready Airmen, instructors decided an F-110 trainer was needed in the training hangar and a work order was submitted to have the 982nd manufacture the equipment. The airframe was removed from the Air Force's inventory as a ground instructional training aircraft and converted to an operational trainer used to meet specific operational systems in the course. 

That wasn't the only obstacle the instructors faced. Mr. Adams said they had balance problems with the old trainer and put oil in the wings to keep the trainer from leaning from one side or the other. He added that when the engine was removed, the airframe had the natural tendency to rise up after the 3,500 pound power house was removed.
With the wings gone and support outriggers added, the trainer has become everything the instructors wanted. 

"They did a great job," Mr. Adams said of the 982nd. "There's no doubt about it."
Mitch Weatherly, the chief of the trainer development flight, said the new trainer takes away the degradation problems the old one posed. But, it wasn't a just the development flight that made yet another trainer success story possible. 

"All trainers, including this one, take countless hours to develop and manufacture to ensure all of the training requirements are met," he said. "It takes individuals who have the system matter expertise from the schools and specialists from the trainer development flight to collaborate on the trainer project throughout its entire process."