The AH-64E Engineering Acceptance Team
Since the last edition of The Eagle was published, 3 Platoon has jumped into our new task with vim and vigour! We have taken delivery of not one, but two pairs of AH-64E Apache “Guardian” attack helicopters.
Those of you on station will have no doubt seen us on the Army Instagram and website as well as the full media circus that accompanied the arrival of the first two cabs in November. Despite the local flora adorning the main rotor head, the event was photographed extensively, and we expect to see a steady stream of content being published by mainstream Army media channels soon.
The platoon has been rebranded as “The AH-64E Engineering Acceptance Team” and have begun producing merchandise in a supreme display of REME Espirit-De-Corps. Keep a keen eye out around the station for our stickers and t-shirts, with patches for our coveralls in the process of being embroidered thanks to a generous donation from the REME Charity.
As a team, we are almost completely trained as AH-64E Competent, having conducted Part A and Part B training under the tutelage of the AH-64E Transition Team, travelling to Ft Eustis, Virginia to undergo American provided training. The American “MOS” system of job designation has seen us undertake “15-Y” and “15-R” type training for Avionics Techs and Aircraft Techs respectively. This training has been conducted alongside those from the 662 Sqn Forward Platoon, preparing for us to hand over their complement of 8 AH-64Es in the coming months.
We’ve faced our fair share of challenges as a team, relying on the support of our peers and associates across the defence community. The CAMO, DT, Transition Team and our own Company and Battalion headquarters have all been instrumental in the success of this project so far. Donne said, “No man is an island entire of itself”, and that has been proven time and time again here. Without the collective endeavour of everyone in REME Aviation, this would be a much less optimistic article!
The Engineering Acceptance Team is learning and improving with every day we spend on the aircraft and look forward to a long and illustrious future working on it, and not just because the training attracts a 5-year commitment to the platform…
What follows is an account of our receipt of the second two aircraft from RAF Brize Norton, written by LCpl Crawford from the AH-64E Engineering Acceptance Team.
Arte Et Marte.
It was Sunday the 7th of February when we, members of 3 Platoon, 71 Aviation Company, 7 (Aviation Close Support) Battalion REME deployed to Brize Norton to receive the next pair of brand new, highly anticipated Apache Echo models, an upgraded version of the current AH-64 Mk1 variant we currently operate at Wattisham Flying Station. As a platoon we have been tasked with receiving the fleet of new AH64-Es and getting them into fighting shape. ZM708 and ZM706 are the third and fourth aircraft to be received and were our focus for this particular aircraft movement. Green fleet deployed just after lunch under the command of Sgt Robinson. Our aim was to get to Brize and set up shop ready to receive the aircraft as soon as they touched down. Lt Goldsmith Lister met us there to lead the unload with Sgt Verrier departing slightly later, bringing the rest of the manpower to assist with the transportation prep the following morning.
The E-Models had been flown in from America inside the back of a C17. After countless technical delays with the C17 it was a relief for them to finally touch down on UK soil. Our first task was to ensure the aircraft themselves, torque tubes, blades and DDU were unloaded without damage. It was then down to the Army Air Corps to transport the aircraft safely to the hangar where we would be preparing them for transportation by JARTS as a road move. For us this meant disconnecting the wings and loading them onto the wing fixtures, ready for them to be transported by truck. Next, we had to remove the tail rotor blades and package them securely to prevent damage. Due to limited room inside the back of a C17, one of the aircraft’s torque tubes had to be removed carefully with a crane, ready for transport. Lastly, we did a complete check of the aircrafts’ plugs, pipes and fixtures, making sure everything was correctly blanked to prevent the ingress of dirt, FOD or moisture during the move. On Tuesday morning JARTS packed the trucks and loaded the Aircraft in preparation to deploy to Wattisham Flying Station. Unfortunately, due to the “Beast from the East: Part 2”, the weather meant the aircraft couldn’t be moved until Friday. Just meters from the finish line, we were once again struck by technical issues! It took us three SVRs to successfully unload the two new AH into Hangar 4, ready to start the long-awaited exciting task of rebuilding them on the Monday morning.
As mentioned previously, these are only the third and fourth of the new aircraft fleet we will be receiving as a platoon. Trips to RAF Brize Norton to unload and prep for transport are therefore expected to become second nature to us and, as the aircraft keep rolling in, our skills in rebuilding and transporting will become second to none. Getting these first-class new aircraft into the service environment is our top priority and we will continue to work hard to make sure that they become operational as soon as possible. With the next two aircraft scheduled to arrive next month we will have our work cut out, however this is a challenge the Platoon relish and look forward to.