Grissom finishes first tanker refurb in almost a decade

  • Published
  • By Harrison Withrow
  • 434th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

It takes a lot of work and care to keep an aircraft looking good after six decades, and sometimes that means taking it all apart and putting it back together.

The 434th Maintenance Squadron recently finished refurbishing one of Grissom’s KC-135R Stratotankers, a 30-day process which involves completely disassembling the interior aircraft, performing restoration tasks on the parts, and rebuilding it.

Master Sgt. Corey Fields, 434th Maintenance Squadron section flight chief, oversees all of the heavy scheduled maintenance for the unit, which includes refurbishments.

Typically a refurbishment, also known as a “refurb” is done on a tanker every 5-8 years, Fields said, but circumstances have prevented this particular aircraft from being refurbished for over 12 years.

“Due to a number of things, like the ongoing construction, we haven’t been able to do a refurb for some time,” he said. “After this, with the upcoming construction on Dock 6, it may even be a few more years before we can do another one.”

Fields noted that though no previous refurbs have occurred at Grissom for eight years, the lack of them has not impacted Wing readiness.

“This is strictly a beautification process, and has no effect on the performance of the aircraft,” he said. “And our crew chiefs on the flightline do a phenomenal job of taking care of their aircraft.”

Though full refurbs are rare at Grissom these days, individual parts can still be restored as needed, said Fields.

“Our crew chiefs always have the option to pull out parts and send them to the paint shop,” he explained. “We may not do the entire aircraft at once, but it’s still been happening, just one part at a time.

“I want to give kudos to the sheet metal shop as well,” added Fields. “Without them taking our parts and painting them, we would not have the beautiful aircraft that we do.”

Despite the many years without a refurbishment, the process moved along at a good pace thanks to the efforts of the maintenance crews, said Fields.

“The tanker is actually in very excellent shape for being 12 years without a refurb,” he said. “Our crew chiefs have done an outstanding job taking care of it.”

“We don’t have the manning we’re used to, so it’s going somewhat slower than usual,” Fields added. “However, this is Grissom, and we always prevail.”

The 434th ARW is the largest KC-135R Stratotanker unit in the Air Force Reserve Command. The Citizen Airmen from the Hoosier Wing routinely deploy around the world in support of the Air Force mission.

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