Fairchild Airmen combat corrosion

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Sean Campbell
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Sparks fly as metal is ground down to remove corrosion before placement of the repair part onto the KC-135 Stratotanker. The Airmen of the 92nd Maintenance Squadron Aircraft Structural Maintenance shop keep the tanker fleet flying by crafting and restoring aged plane parts.

Recently, the sheet metal shop had to repair a KC-135 that was heavily affected by corrosion. This repair had to be discussed with engineers at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, because the work required exceeds field-level repair capabilities.

“I drafted an Engineering Technical Assistance Request speaking directly with Structural Engineers at Tinker,” said Tech. Sgt. Shawn Roberge, 92nd MXS aircraft structural maintenance section chief. “I developed a repair plan and forwarded it to engineers for approval, as we are not able to perform any aircraft maintenance without approved guidance. Writing ETARs helps prepare us for future repairs, as we can refer back to them and possibly have the repair submitted and added permanently to our Technical Orders.”

The guidance required the aircraft to be jacked to a "No Load Configuration" while the repair was being performed. This is done to alleviate any stresses on the airframe by using supports to take weight off of the airframe while it’s resting on its landing gear.

Once the aircraft was in position, a Non-Destructive Inspection was performed by using ultrasonic equipment to determine the depth of the corrosion. From that point, the work was completed as required and the aircraft was returned to mission ready capability.

“The Aircraft Structural Maintenance shop requests over 50 ETARs annually, as we are discovering more corrosion at the field level that must be repaired,” said Roberge. “This entire process is performed to return the aircraft to full mission-capable status as well as negating the need for a Depot Repair Team to come here and repair it.”

With an older fleet of aircraft, there is the potential for more issues like corrosion. Performing the repair here saves an extended amount of time. If the aircraft was not able to be repaired on site, an Unscheduled Depot Level Maintenance request would be created to send the aircraft to the Tinker depot for repairs. The last UDLM requested took over a year before the repair was able to take place.

“This was not the first time we have seen this repair,” said Roberge. “In fact we see repairs like this almost every Isochronal Inspection.”

ISO Inspections are conducted every two years. The aircraft is inspected in its entirety and any issues that are found are fixed by the proper maintainers.

Roberge and his team ensure that Fairchild’s KC-135s are corrosion-free quickly, safely and are able to conduct the mission at a moment’s notice.