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Silver Eagle 206, a Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 115 F/A-18,completed its 9,000th hour of flight in the skies above the Lowcountry before landing back aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, Nov. 13. The maintainers ensure the aircraft continue flying are responsible for the squadron maintaining the highest state readiness to deploy forward.

Photo by Cpl. Justin M. Boling

Old Hornet does one more trick; VMFA-115 F/A 18 Hornet soars beyond 9,000 hours

21 Nov 2012 | Cpl. Justin M. Boling Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort

The aircraft maintain­ers of Marine Fighter At­tack Squadron 115 wait patiently on the flightline for the return of the cul­mination of all of their ef­fort.

Silver Eagle 206, a grey sky colored F/A-18 is completing its 9,000th hour of flight in the skies above the Lowcountry be­fore landing back aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, Nov. 13.

“Many of these air­craft rolled off the line in 1985,” said Lt. Col. Mat­thew Phares, command­ing officer of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 115. “Many of the main­tainers that work on them were not even born yet.

“They are still flying and are more lethal than the day they rolled off the line with advanced munitions and systems,” continued Phares, a na­tive of Cirlceville, W.Va. “The aircraft is still going strong and we expect it to see 10,000 hours.”

For every one hour that Silver Eagles 206 flew, 10 hours of meticulous main­tenance was performed. This includes numerous upgrades and overhauls to ensure the aircraft was capable of flying to inter­cept and destroy enemy aircraft and attack and destroy surface targets.

“There is a lot of main­tenance performed throughout the mainte­nance levels to keep it flying,” Chief Warrant Officer Ramon Vasquez, the Silver Eagle’s main­tenance material control officer. “At our mainte­nance level we ensure that the aircraft stay in tip to shape ready to complete the mission at hand.”

According to Phares, VMFA-115 operates some the oldest F/A-18s on MCAS Beaufort and the entire Marine Corps.

“We look left and right and we see younger air­craft, but we are not go­ing to use that as an ex­cuse,” said Phares. “We are going to do our best to outfly our peers and have better readiness rates and train our pilots to the best of our ability.

“When we go out to our aircraft we expect each one of them to launch and be ready to complete the day’s mission.”

In addition to the squad­ron’s numerous inspec­tions, naval aviation stan­dards require numerous inspections to ensure flight readiness of all aircraft.

“Older aircraft are put through even more inspections, which in­creases the burden on our squadron’s maintain­ers to keep these aircraft ready,” Phares added. “The Marines manage to accomplish this task without the squadron los­ing any flight hours and is a testament to all the maintenance Marines in our squadron.”

“Each work center is responsible for inspect­ing their section of the aircraft,” said Sgt. Chris­topher Harrison, a squad­ron maintenance control­ler. “An example would be the ordnance Marines inspecting any part of the aircraft that releases mu­nitions.”

The hard work of the squadron’s maintainers allows the F/A-18 Hor­net to complete its many tactical applications in­cluding: air to air and air to ground target en­gagement and conduct­ing intelligence, surveil­lance and reconnaissance missions to safeguard ground forces.

“It doesn’t matter if the aircraft is old or brand new, we have the same job and responsibility,” Harrison said. “Whether it has one flight hour or 10,000 the same amount of pride goes into the maintenance that is per­formed by the Marines.

“A lot of pride comes from the generations of Marines who came before us, who wanted to take care of their air­craft,” Harrison contin­ued. “You want to see it fly and come back having completed its mission successfully.”

Maintainers are respon­sible for the squadron maintaining the highest state of readiness to de­ploy forward.

“These Marines do an outstanding job of pro­viding a great quality of work day in and day out,” Vasquez said. “They manage complete these numerous inspections in a timely fashion to allow the squadron to continue with the mission.”

As much as the main­tainers are responsible for the aircraft’s readi­ness, aviators entrust the mission and their lives to the maintainers’ proper and skilled maintenance.

“I have complete faith in every Marine that I have worked with or trained with in this squadron that these aircraft are safe and ready for flight,” said Harrison. “I can say with an absolute guaran­tee, ‘Yes sir, this plane is ready to fly.’”

“I cannot see inside the panels and I am not trained to work on the in­ternal components of this aircraft,” said Phares. “Our maintainers are trained to look at these systems and know wheth­er they are [functioning] or [nonfunctioning].

“Our lives are in their capable hands everyday and they never fail us.”

A well known motto in the Marine Corps, “Doing more with less” has defi­nitely played a large role in maintenance at the Sil­ver Eagles’ hangar.

“The Marine Corps has never had the latest and greatest equipment,” said Phares. “Our equipment may be worn out, but it is the people that allow us to accomplish the mission at hand and they are what make the difference.

“Our maintainers on the flightline take some of the oldest F/A-18s in the inventory and enable us to do better than any­one else is doing,” Phares continued. “Their work keeps us in the highest state of readiness to de­ploy forward.”