On 17 December 2020, the 576th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Squadron (576th AMRS) at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base (AZ) re-delivered the last of ten damaged Beechcraft T-1A Jayhawks, serial 93-0623/XL, to Laughlin Air Force Base (TX).
The squadron took on the repairs for ten of the aircraft after 39 of them sustained severe hail damage when a storm swept through Laughlin AFB in February 2016. Of the three aircraft fleets at Laughlin's 47th Flying Training Wing, the T-1A Jayhawks were hit hardest. The February storm, which blew 60 mph winds and brought golf ball-sized hail, damaged some 60 aircraft on the installation. Eighty-two percent, 39 aircraft, of Laughlin's Jayhawk fleet was unsheltered and badly damaged. Fortunately, 22 T-38C Talons only sustained manageable damage, and the T-6A Texan II fleet came out nearly unscratched.
According to Shawn Clay, the product support manager at the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center T-1 System Programme Office, the number of damaged Jayhawks was too large for only one commercial repair facility. Air Force Materiel Command suggested shifting some of the hail damage repair workload to the 309th AMARG.
Over the years, the 309th AMARG took on repair for 10 of the T-1A aircraft. The Jayhawk trainers are now back in the air thanks to a unique repair and maintenance mission performed by the 309th AMARG. An audit in 2017 by the Air Force Sustainment Center (AFSC) Flight Standards Management Office (FSMO) resulted in the group’s qualification for the military repair station programme and associated Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulatory requirements, certifying the 309th AMARG as AFSC’s first-ever FAA equivalent military repair station, which provided an avenue to create revenue and perform commercial-type work.
Repairing the hail-damaged aircraft was labour intensive. 309th AMARG Employees, hand-selected based on their experience levels in aircraft airframe, power-plant, electrics, avionics, and structural repair, received six weeks of T-1A familiarisation training at Laughlin AFB. Planning documents called for stripping the Jayhawk's interior, removing engines, disassembling the nose and aft cargo bay area, shoring, symmetry checks, and removing five critical pressurized skins. Once replacement skins were available for installation, the work was reversed for reassembly. Besides replacing skins, mechanics also performed corrosion inspections and replacement repairs to lavatory areas on six of the 10 aircraft. The AMARG team invested approximately 108,000 thousand man hours into this repair and maintenance programme.
Derived from the Hawker/Beechcraft 400A corporate aircraft, the T-1A is essentially a civil aircraft modified to fit military training needs. As such, repair facilities approved to work on the aircraft require FAA certifications beyond the usual.
The USAF operates 177 T-1A Jayhawks with the 12th Flying Training Wing at Randolph AFB (TX), the 14th Flying Training Wing at Columbus AFB (MS), the 71st Flying Training Wing at Vance AFB (OK), the 47th Flying Training Wing at Laughlin AFB (TX), and the 479th Flying Training Group at NAS Pensacola (FL).
The following XL coded T-1A Jayhawks, receiving repairs, have been noted with the 309th AMARG over the past few years:
91-0094, 92-0347, 92-0352, 92-0358, 92-0362, 93-0622, 93-0623, 93-0636, 93-0647 + one other