Detroit ‘Muscle’ on Display at Selfridge

  • Published
  • By TSgt. Dan Heaton
  • 127th Wing Public Affairs
Roar. Rumble. Excitement. Freedom.

The Detroit region isn't known as the Motor City for nothing. People here have had a century-long love affair with big, powerful engines and have thrilled at the perfect sound coming from under the hood as they rev up.

But even the engines of Detroit's Muscle Car-era can't compare to the power available on the runway at the region's Selfridge Air National Guard Base. Sure, the 1966 Dodge Charger - envy of many a muscle car lover - could get up and go - but did it have enough power to move 322,000 pounds at more than 500 miles per hour?

"I think that's one of the reasons why people love coming to air shows - they just love to see that kind of power on display," said Lt. Col. Sean Campbell, a fighter pilot at Selfridge and the director of the 2011 Selfridge Air Show and Open House, Aug. 20-21.

For the true muscle lover, its often a split decision on the best part of the relationship - getting behind the wheel or spending time under the hood.

"I guess I just enjoy working on the engines," said Master Sgt. Adrian Canchola, who has been a jet engine mechanic at Selfridge since 1986. "Every day is something different."

Canchola is part of the propulsion shop in the 127th Maintenance Squadron, which maintains the two General Electric TF34-GE-100 turbofan engines on each of the A-10 attack aircraft at Selfridge. Different parts of the engines are given major inspections after every 125 hours, 250 hours and 500 hours. The mechanics of the 127th also trouble-shoot any reports of problems with the engines.

"Trouble-shooting the engines is probably the most interesting part of the job," Canchola said. "You really have to think through what you are working with. The F-16 engines were more computerized."

Canchola has worked on three different types of aircraft in his 25-year career at Selfridge. He first started out as a young Airman working on A-7 Corsairs, an attack aircraft initially developed by the Navy and later used by both the Navy and Air Force. The A-7s were retired by the Air Force in the early 1990s and left Selfridge in 1991. He then moved on to working on F-16 Falcon engines for about 20 years. Not quite three years ago, the F-16s left Selfridge - they are still flown by other units of the Air Force and an F-16 is expected to be on display at the Selfridge Air Show - and the A-10s arrived.

A separate maintenance squadron works on the KC-135 Stratotankers stationed at Selfridge.

The KC-135s, along with a variety of other military aircraft, will also be on display during the 2011 Selfridge Air Show and Open House is open to the public and admission and parking are free. The base will be open 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. both days of the show, with the same flying performers and displays planned for both days of the show. On Friday, Aug. 19, air show weekend kicks off with a Hangar Party, featuring a performance on the base by rocker Eddie Money. Tickets and information are available via

Also on display at the air show will be some of the muscle used by the U.S. Army and other branches of the service. The Army's main battle tank, as an example, packs some 1,500 horsepower under the hood - that's enough to get a 65-plus ton tank to top out at over 40 miles per hour on the open road.

Like many a classic car buff, Canchola said he has a soft spot in his heart for his first engine.

"I worked on the A-7 first. That still has to be my favorite one to work on," he said.

Air Force jet engine mechanics typically begin their career by attending an approximately eight-week-long basic technical training school and then receive an additional two weeks of additional training on the specific type of engine used by their assigned unit. After that, they begin a detailed on-the-job training regime which includes correspondence courses and periodic returns to a technical training center for upgrade training.

The 127th Wing of the Michigan Air National Guard is the host organization at Selfridge, flying the KC-135 Stratotanker, an aerial refueler, and the A-10 Thunderbolt II, also known as the Warthog, which is an air-to-ground attack fighter. In addition to the Wing, Selfridge is home to numerous other military and federal agencies, which fly a variety of helicopters and small, light fixed-wing aircraft.

Detroit Muscle

M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank
Built by:
General Dynamics, for the U.S. Army
Engine type: gas turbine
Top speed: 42 mph
Cruising speed: 30 mph
Acceleration: 0 to 20 mph in 7.2 seconds
Range: 265 miles at 30 mph
Horse power: 1,500
Power to weight ratio: 21.6 hp per ton
Transmission: hydrokinetic transmission, 4 forward gears, 2 reverse
Note: Features a 120mm smooth bore cannon

A-10 Thunderbolt II (Warthog)
Built by:
Fairchild Republic, for the U.S. Air Force
Engine type: Two General Electric TF34-GE-100 turbofans
Top speed: About 450 mph
Cruising speed: About 340 mph
Range: 800 miles
Thrust: 9,065 pounds, per engine
Maximum takeoff weight: 51,000 pounds
Note: Aircraft is built around a 30mm seven-barrel Gatling gun

KC-135 Stratotanker
Built by:
Engine type: Four CFM International CFM-56 turbofan engines
Thrust: 21,634 pounds, per engine
Speed: 530 mph
Range: up to 11,015 miles
Maximum take-off weight: 322,500 pounds
Note: Can carry more than 31,000 gallons of jet fuel.

1966 Dodge Charger
Built by:
Engine type: Several, including 426 Hemi V-8
Top speed: 200+ mph
Cruising speed: Variable
0-60 mph: 6.4 seconds
Horsepower: 425
Range: About 170 miles
Transmission: Three on the tree, four on the floor, or three-speed automatic
Note: During an 11-year production run, Chargers won 124 NASCAR Cup races, including 5 championships.