AH-64 Apache Gets Some Skin by Recycling

by Brigitte Rox, CCAD Public Affairs

Arturo Garcia, a pattern maker in the Foundry, demonstrates how an Apache tail boom skin is

Arturo Garcia, a pattern maker in the Foundry, demonstrates how an Apache tail boom skin is made by molding it to special form blocks made in-house. Photo taken by Nicole Plascencia. (RELEASED).

Corpus Christi, TX (March 2, 2012) – A damaged helicopter is a step closer to being fully repaired due to some creative thinking by Corpus Christi Army Depot artisans aiming to be green and cost-effective.

The twin-engine attack helicopter suffered some structural damage to its tail during a recent deployment and found its way to CCAD for repair and return.

The tail boom needed a new skin but the depot bumped into trouble when they sought the skins through the regular supply chain.

“We couldn’t find the skins anywhere,” said Roland De La Fuente, Jigs and Fixtures Supervisor.

The Jigs and Fixtures Shop is in charge of producing the tooling needed to manufacture aircraft structural parts and components.

To manufacture a skin for the tail boom, Jigs and Fixtures would have to create a new form block from scratch. Sheet metal would then be molded to the form block to create the skin.

“If we couldn’t manufacture [the form block], we would probably have to buy a new tail cone,” said De La Fuente.

Instead, Jigs and Fixtures created new form blocks by recycling old tooling no longer used.

In 2011, CCAD retired its UH-1 Huey program but still had many of the tools used to repair the helicopter. Instead of demolishing these abandoned tools, artisans in the foundry decided to give them a new purpose. They melted two Huey forms and created new ones for the Apache tail boom.

Skilled artisans were then able to manufacture two top-priority AH-64 skins that were not available in the supply system. The skins then went through an inspection in Quality Control before being reattached to the Apache and returned to its mission.

“Everything we put out has to be top quality,” said Art Garcia, a pattern maker in the foundry.

“This is one of the ways that CCAD is trying to support the Environmental Management System,” said De La Fuente as the depot works towards ISO14001 certification. This certification would designate Corpus Christi Army Depot as an organization that minimizes harmful effects on the environment and achieves continual improvement of its environmental performance.

Consumption of raw materials is one of the chief environmental concerns at CCAD, along with energy consumption and regulated waste.

“We’re going to recycle as much as we can,” said De La Fuente.

This recycling initiative is going to save the government a lot of money, Garcia said.

“With the price of materials in today’s economy, the price of manufacturing tooling went up significantly,” said De La Fuente. By performing the work in-house, CCAD saves money typically spent on the product and transport.

If cost-efficiencies and environmental benefits weren’t enough, the new process also saves time since artisans don’t have to wait for funding approval and shipping.

The benefits of this new process will help CCAD personnel determine whether or not to utilize the same process for more manufactures in the future.

“We’re going to set aside a few more forms,” said De La Fuente. “Once we start reviewing them and demonstrate that we’re not going to make up that tooling anymore, we’re going to designate that tool to make tools we can use.”

Initiatives like this are just one of the many things CCAD is doing to posture itself for a greener and more cost-efficient future.


Designated a Center of Industrial and Technical Excellence for rotary wing aircraft, Corpus Christi Army Depot ensures aviation readiness through overhaul, repair, modification, retrofit, testing, recapitalization, and modernization of helicopters, engines and components. This effort includes world-wide on-site field maintenance teams, analytical crash investigations and chemical material process facilities. CCAD serves as a depot training base for active duty Army, National Guard, and reserve units. CCAD, as South Texas' largest industrial employer, employs more than 5500 personnel and contractors providing an overall economic impact of more than $1.14 Billon to the local community.