Battle-damage repair experts from Hill Air Force Base are being deployed to Florida to see if two F-16 fighter jets mangled during Hurricane Andrew can be returned to service.
Two members from the 2952nd Combat Logistics Support Squadron flew to Homestead Air Force Base in Florida on Tuesday to do initial assessment of the damage and a dozen more were leaving Thursday, said Lt. Col. Tom Owen, squadron commander."They'll do whatever it takes to get the two planes flying again; or, if the task is not economically feasible, to dismantle and salvage the aircraft," he said.
Owen said squadron members are being told to take sleeping bags and air mattresses and that the best they could expect was "hopefully some sort of shelter. . . . We haven't yet been able to contact the two men who are already there. The military phone network is not up."
But despite the uncertain conditions, Owen said there was no lack of volunteers for the assignment from among the unit's 305 members.
Master Sgt. Tim Murphy, one of the squadron members leaving for Florida Thursday, said, "Everybody wants to get involved in helping out. Besides, it'll be a unique experience."
Owen said if possible the two planes will be fixed at Homestead. But if more extensive work is needed, the plane's wings will be removed and the planes will be crated and put on a flatbed truck destined for Hill.
He said damaged planes usually are trucked instead of flown by cargo plane to the Utah base because it's less expensive.
About one-third of the squadron was deployed to the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm.
"The goal was to turn a damaged airplane around within eight hours, and that's what we averaged," said Capt. John Parker, showing off a display board of quick ways to get an airplane flying again.
These included stitching up a broken canopy, putting a piece of sheet metal over a hole instead of replacing the entire part, and a variety of make-do items that would work if the proper part was not available.