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103rd CRF shows their stuff

Personnel from Unison Engine Components in Manchester, Conn. pose for a group photo Aug. 10, 2011 in the Air Park at Bradley Air National Guard Base, East Granby, Conn. The group visited the 103rd Airlift Wing's Centralized Repair Facility to get a first-hand look at their product being assembled and installed into the TF34 engine. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Steven Sevigny)

Personnel from Unison Engine Components in Manchester, Conn. pose for a group photo Aug. 10, 2011 in the Air Park at Bradley Air National Guard Base, East Granby, Conn. The group visited the 103rd Airlift Wing's Centralized Repair Facility to get a first-hand look at their product being assembled and installed into the TF34 engine. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Steven Sevigny)

BRADLEY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, East Granby, Conn. -- On a warm summer morning, Aug. 10, 2011 to be exact, a chartered bus rolled to a stop at the front gate of the 103rd Airlift Wing. Aboard was an anxious group of seasoned engineers and machinist from Unison Engine Components, a subsidiary of GE aviation, located in Manchester, Conn. As they waited to be escorted to the Centralized Repair Facility, many took note of the A-10 quietly perched in the Air Park, dutifully watching over the main gate to the base. They all had a connection to the A-10, and to the CRF.

Unison has been to the CRF before. Flipping back a few years to 2008, Unison was tasked by GE to build new Combustion Chamber Frames for the entire TF34-GE-100A fleet, which powers the A-10 and is the primary engine produced at the 103rd CRF. As Unison's first frame was completed, plans were put in motion to test fit that first frame to one of the CRF's engines to ensure it fit properly. That day, with collaboration between GE Aviation, Unison Engine Components, Tinker AFB, and the 103rd CRF, was such a success the entire TF34 community has been receiving brand new combustion frames since.

Jumping forward again to that August day this year, some of the same individuals of that past day and many new faces that have joined the project, turned their attention back towards the front of the bus as it made its way to the nearly completed CRF building. Their goal during this visit was to see which parts go into their frame and how it is assembled, then see one running on Test Cell. This was different than their last visit, since that was to ensure it fit on the engine. This visit was focused on seeing how everything was assembled inside and if anything could be done better. With notebooks in hand, the group disembarked the bus, briskly walked to the CRF building and into the conference room where they were greeted by the senior staff of the CRF along with the group and squadron commanders of the 103rd Maintenance Group. After a short meet and greet, a brief tour of the facility was in order. The group left the conference room and headed into High Bay West of the CRF where they stopped and were awestruck, realizing what sat in front of them. The CRF's F100-220 training engine was set to the right of the doorway. Unknown to CRF personnel, Unison builds components for the F100 family of engines as well. Unfortunately, most from Unison had never seen a complete engine in person. The cameras quickly came out and the snapping and flashing commenced. Everyone had a smile, setting a fantastic mood for the day.

With the tour completed, the attention turned to one engine part in the vast echoing space of High Bay East, the new side of the CRF. Part after part was assembled into a, fresh-out-of-the-box, Combustion Chamber Frame for all to see. With everyone huddled around like a team discussing the final play at the Super Bowl, photos, notes and questions flowed. Jokes and smiles filled the group at the site of years of work coming together before their eyes. For the technicians at the CRF it was just another day, but for those from Unison it was an introduction to something they had never gotten to see before. Some of the machinist commented that they thought the Frame was mostly empty and thought nothing went in it. Disbelief filled many about the hundreds of bits and pieces that filled the Frame as the assembly continued. After a few hours of discussion, the Combustion Chamber Frame was complete. A combination of hundreds of questions answered and possibly thousands of photos taken from every part within the Frame to the overall shop and TF34 engine, made the trip worthwhile in ways most not affiliated with Unison may not understand. But their day wasn't over.

After a filling pizza lunch in the Conference room, the group split in two. Half joined a technician who conducted an informative walking tour of the hanger and C-21's along with a brief walk through of Building 11, the CRF temporary facility which to this day is still being used for some CRF operations. The other half set off in the opposite direction. The plan was to switch half way through the afternoon at the Hush House. The anticipation of all to get to see a TF34 running was almost too much to bear. As the first group stepped through the thick sound-reduction doors of the Hush House, they were given a safety briefing bringing more reality to what they were about to witness. Most had never seen a complete engine assembled; even fewer had ever seen one running. As the main doors closed behind them, everyone prepared their hearing protection with adrenalin pumping. With the group standing in a safety area, the engine spun to life. After a few minutes to warm up, everyone got the rush of their lives when the throttle was opened up and the wind screamed past making all feel as they were in the middle of a hurricane. After minutes that seemed like an hour, the time at the Hush House was over and they switched with the other half so everyone experienced the same.

As the day drew to a close, the Unison team regrouped and relaxed in the CRF conference room, engaging in an open conversation with Engine Crew Leads. With thanks exchanged to all, everyone boarded the bus with one more short stop in mind. As the bus rounded the corner it passed the main gate and pulled into the lot for the Air Park where the group was able to spend some time looking and reading about the 103rd's past aircraft. With a photo of the group under the A-10, Unison members filled the bus one last time expressing great thanks for overwhelming hospitality and information. For the Unison team and the CRF, the day was a complete success.