Sheet metal and the KC-135 Stratotanker

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Sean Campbell
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Team Fairchild’s KC-135 Stratotankers first took to the skies in the 1950s and 1960s and have continued to support missions across the globe.

A big contributor to keeping the aircraft flying is the sheet metal shop here at Fairchild.

“We do the painting of the aircraft to protect from corrosion,” said Airman 1st Class Kevin McGeary, 92nd Maintenance Squadron aircraft structural maintenance journeyman. “We take care of the panels, fix corrosion when it does occur and make patches to the jet.”

A frequent issue the sheet metal shop faces is corrosion. When moisture builds up in different areas of the plane, it causes damage. When exposed for a long enough period of time the metal can crack.

“Back in the 1950s and 1960s, a lot of aircraft parts were made of magnesium,” said Staff Sgt. Brian Stolz, 92nd MXS aircraft structural maintenance craftsman. “This was smart back in the day because it was a light weight material. However it is extremely corrosive and if any moisture comes in contact with it for any length of time it begins breaking down which can cause a catastrophic failure."

Corrosion can occur if paint is chipped off in bad weather or if a rock hits an aircraft hard enough to cause damage to the paint exposing the metal.

“We see a lot of corrosion with KC-135s near the landing lights on the interior of the leading edges,” McGeary said. “For that, we remove as much of the corrosion as possible to prevent it from spreading on to any of the unharmed metal. We then refabricate the section and rebuild the area.”

Sheet metal uses many different tools to complete their mission, ranging from simple hand tools such as hammers and drills to larger machines like power rolling machines and tube benders.

If it were not for the sheet metal shop, the KC-135 would not be in the air today, after over 60 years of providing global reach.