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Change that engine.

The operations the Coast Guard performs as part of OPBAT (Operations Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands) are critical to halting drug- and migrant-smuggling activity. When something unexpected happens, the crew must pull together to remedy any situation that comes their way. This is exactly what Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater crewmembers did when their MH-60T Jayhawk, CG6021, was forced to perform a precautionary landing on the southern shore of Mayaguana Island, Bahamas, just three feet from the water's edge.

During a law enforcement patrol, the crew had to make a precautionary landing after they heard an unfamiliar, high-pitched, grinding sound emanating from the forward section of the No. 2 engine.

"When a helicopter crew makes a precautionary landing, it is always for the safety of the crew," said Chief Warrant Officer Matthew Kellison, the OPBAT maintenance officer at the air station. "The noise they heard was serious enough for the pilot to decide to land immediately in the best interest of all aboard."

Just hours later, a deployed Clearwater maintenance crew from Great Inagua arrived on-scene, coordinated a security watch due to the desolate area, and completed a thorough borescope inspection of the engine. After the assessment, it was reported that the No.2 engine had ingested FOD and would require replacement.

Without delay, deployed crews from Great Inagua and Air Station Clearwater began coordinating the transport of a replacement engine, additional tools, equipment and personnel, via a Clearwater-based HC-130 Hercules, to Great Inagua.

With flawless coordination among all crews and departments, they got the replacement engine and all of the necessary equipment and personnel on a plane and to the site the very next morning.

The next day, air crew aboard the Hercules arrived in Matthew Town, Great Inagua, with the essential cargo load. Coast Guard personnel off-loaded the cargo and began to plan the logistics of transporting all personnel, tools, equipment, including the 700-pound replacement engine, to the rocky shoreline of Mayaguana Island.

The following day, two deployed Jayhawk crews from Great Inagua (one from Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, N.C., and the other from Air Station Clearwater) began ferrying maintenance personnel, tools and equipment 90 miles northeast to Mayaguana. On the last flight, the external load capabilities of the Jayhawk were used to sling loaded the replacement engine 90 miles to Mayaguana Island's rocky shoreline.

As the replacement engine made its way to Mayaguana, riding 70 feet below a Jayhawk helicopter, maintenance crews quickly constructed a level working area around the Jayhawk.

"Building a level and sturdy platform to support the portable crane was a challenge," said AMT1 Gary Spurgeon. "We had to use three-quarter-inch plywood and sandbags to create a level surface solid enough to support the base of the crane."

Shortly thereafter, the replacement engine arrived and crews worked together to place the engine inches away from the damaged helicopter

With a level platform and all equipment in reach, maintenance personnel removed the damaged engine and began installing the new engine. As daylight drew to a close, the site was cleaned up, tools were inventoried, and the maintenance crew was transported back to Matthew Town for the night.

A 24-hour security watch was maintained throughout the night by two Coast Guard members, with assistance from partnering agents of the Drug Enforcement Agency and Bahamian Drug Enforcement Unit. They took shifts ensuring the safety and security of the personal and aircraft at an unsecured site in the middle of nowhere.

Maintenance and repairs were completed, and a thorough preflight was conducted. The repaired Jayhawk was flown back to Great Inagua by sunset with all crew aboard.

"This is one of those once-in-a-decade challenges that come with operations in remote parts of the Caribbean. I couldn't be any more proud of my folks for such an amazing repair under such demanding conditions. They really pulled together as a team to recover that aircraft," said Capt. Richard Lorenzen, Commanding Officer, Coast Guard Air Statio Clearwater.

By LT Justin Lewis, USCG

LT Lewis flies with Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater, Florida.
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Author:Lewis, Justin
Date:Jun 22, 2014
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