434 MXS kicks off new mission, now responsible for most AFRC KC-135 periodic inspections

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Alexis M. Morris

Grissom has long been known for the meticulous quality and condition of its KC-135R Stratotankers, and with a new regional periodic inspection mission now operating on base, so will other Air Force Reserve Command units.

Under the RPE, KC-135 units within AFRC will send aircraft to Grissom to perform the inspections that were previously done at the individual wing level. The lone exception is March Air Reserve Base, Calif., because it has been selected as the preferred location for the next round of KC-46A Pegasus basing.

“We were chosen for our strong backshops and experienced personnel,” said Brian Baumfalk, 434th Maintenance Squadron regional periodic inspection supervisor.

RPE is a multi-week operation that occurs every 1,800 flight hours or every 30 months, whichever occurs sooner, and requires extensive collaboration between all units and backshops across the squadron. The inspection itself is divided into five distinct phases: washing, de-paneling, inspecting, fixing and re-paneling.
While each phase varies in length, the typical cadence for inspections – commonly referred to as “fly-to-fly” – is 21 days. Prior to the command’s efforts to centralize the inspections, fly-to-fly times varied significantly across wings and were commonly in excess of 30 or 40 days, according to Baumfalk.

Currently conducting the routine inspection of their first off-station aircraft, the 434 MXS is confident in their ability to minimize the time that each aircraft is grounded, despite the increased level of coordination required.

In order to ensure that all key players are provided with timely information, the RPE team has implemented various tools and established platforms that allow them to communicate with command-level leaders, off-site personnel and various others. As required by the mission’s concept of operations, each off-station aircraft undergoing RPE requires unit representatives to be on-site throughout the inspection’s duration, adding another layer of collaborative complexity.

Additionally, over the course of its inaugural year, the mission is expected to bring 34 new positions to Grissom.

“As we continue to increase our manpower, especially with civilians of various backgrounds, we’re going to be able to expand on what we’ve already accomplished and, hopefully, prove that Grissom was the right choice,” shared Senior Master Sgt. Joseph Hubbs, 434 MXS regional periodic inspection flight chief.

The Grissom-based team’s top priority, according to Hubbs, remains guaranteeing that the command is able to consistently deliver combat ready forces to the Total Force at a moment’s notice.