End of an Era - Propulsion Flight closes its doors
When the last C-130H Hercules departed Yokota Air Base, it left like a rock star as a crowd of people cheered and waved. Breaking up the band isn’t easy, especially for the 374th Maintenance Squadron’s aerospace propulsion flight who have closed a nearly seventy year tour.
The propulsion flight at Yokota has a rich history dating back to 1948 with the 374 MXS. The flight has worked on many different airframes to include the B-57, J-65, FJ-3M, T-39, KB-50J and J-60 engines and corresponding propeller systems.
The flight supported aircraft through various conflicts including the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Desert Storm Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom and virtually any humanitarian missions involving a C-130H within the Indo-Asia Pacific Region.
Over its many active years the prop flight changed stations multiple times within the Pacific, calling many places home including: Guam, Okinawa, Taiwan, Philippines and Japan.
In 1989 the propulsion flight came to Yokota and became a hub supporting all C-130H aircraft in the Pacific Air Force by working and training on the C-130H T56/-15-7 engines and the 54H60 propeller.
Building 907 has been used as an engine and propulsion facility since it was built in 1946, one of the oldest buildings in use on Yokota, and has acted as the Engine Regional Repair Center.
Without the propulsion flight, Yokota’s C-130H’s never would have been able to fly.
“I’ve been here for six years and when I first got here this shop was the bread and butter of the wing,” said Staff Sgt. Colton Windsor, 374th Maintenance Squadron, aerospace propulsion journeyman. “As the propulsion shop slowly got smaller and withered away, the pride is still here.”
At one point in time Airmen would tag the propellers and engines they built and worked on with painted stencils of various things or people such as: Darth Vader, Godzilla or Mr. T. You could tell who worked on what just by their mark.
“I remember one time we looked and an aircraft with all four of its props were made by one of our Airmen,” said Windsor. “We could tell because they all had his picture of Mr. T; he took a lot of pride in that.”
The innovation and team work of the propulsion flight has been proven time and again. When there was a manufacture’s defect causing a propeller malfunction Air Force wide, the flight not only set a PACAF record of tearing down and rebuilding 10 propellers in two days, but also created a new tool to aid in fixing the problem. The custom apex bit they created has now been mass produced and is used Air Force wide.
The ingenuity of the propulsion flight and their teamwork with the 374 MXS metals technology to craft the new tool helped Yokota win the second place Commander in Chief Installation Excellence Award and $400,000 in 2016.
The propulsion shop officially closed its doors on Nov. 1, 2017. Some of the flight’s equipment, one last T-36 engine and some of the Airmen remained to help with the transition of materials until the final closing shop ceremony scheduled for January 2018.
Now that the proportion flight has moved out, the building will be used by various organizations including 374 MXS metals technology, 373rd Training Squadron Detachment 15 and a small section for the Rolls Royce engine team for the J-model AE 2100D3 engines still under warranty.
The Airmen from the propulsion flight will be going to various flights within the 374th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and 374 MXS.
“We would build up the engines and props and then deliver them to the flight line,” said Senior Airman Jacob Lay, 374 MXS aerospace propulsion journeyman. “So we normally didn’t get to see how our final product was used, but now we will be out there and get to see it.”
While the Airmen from the propulsion flight have a lot to look forward to in their transition to another flight, many of them are going to miss the tight-knit community that was the propulsion flight.
“One thing that’s different about the propulsion flight is we are more like a family, not just acquaintances and coworkers,” said Tech. Sgt. Aaron Arechiga, 374 MXS proportion flight, flight chief. “We try and get together more often and try to make work not feel like a burden to come into every day.”
While the propulsion flight’s primary duty was to keep engines and props ready for use, they also did much more. When the 374 AMXS had a tragedy the proportion flight stepped up to help.
“When AMXS shut down completely,” said Windsor. “We went out there and fixed a bunch of their aircraft so when they came back to work they didn’t have so much to fix and could focus on helping each other.”
Whenever other maintenance sections are short manned the propulsion flight’s engine troops step up to help out. For Arechiga, he is looking forward to taking the propulsion flight’s positive atmosphere to other flights.
“To me the biggest thing that makes things happen is moral,” said Arechiga. “I’m looking forward to making things like it is here; taking the good positive energy of these guys to others and hopefully it will affect and help others grow.”
The 374 MXS propulsion flight has a long history of excellence, innovation and honor, and their legacy will not be forgotten.