Maintainers race to replace KC-135 tail pins

  • Published
  • By By Douglas Hays
  • 434th ARW Public Affairs

Grissom maintainers moved with the efficiency of an Indy-car pit crew replacing the pins in a few Grissom KC-135R Stratotankers.

The pin replacement was mandated by a time compliance technical order in mid-February to identify tail pins that were not to the specifications required for aviation.

All Airborne Warning and Control System and KC-135R aircraft throughout the Air Force fleet were grounded until inspections were complete.

Those with non-conforming pins were grounded until those pins were replaced.

“The biggest challenge was just getting the pins,” said Col. Arianne Mayberry, 434th Maintenance Group commander. “With AWACS and the -135 Fleet affected, we were prioritized due to our [impending] runway closure, so, we were just hoping that we didn't run into any problems or find corrosion in the area, once the pins were removed.”

As units jockeyed for the limited available pins, Grissom’s maintainers began prepping those aircraft that needed pin replacement.

One aircraft, 58-0093, is new to the Grissom fleet and is remaining on base during the runway closure.

“We looked at that aircraft first, to see how difficult it was to remove a pin,” she said. “The maintainers walked through the removal process even before we had the first pin. So, we were familiar with the process.”

In all, four of Grissom’s 16 KC-135s had to have both pins replaced, and one needed one of them replaced, but the timeline was still tight.

“We only had two weeks to schedule the jobs and get them ‘greened up’ and off to Fort Wayne,” Mayberry said.

To expedite the last two pin swaps, maintainers pulled aircraft into Docks 5 and 6 and pulled access panels off the tails so everything was ready when they arrived.

The last set of pins arrived at Grissom the afternoon of March 16, and maintainers immediately began the replacement process. By the end of the day, both were replaced.

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