Team Efforts Keeps Stratotankers Flying

  • Published
  • By TSgt. Dan Heaton
  • 127th Wing Public Affairs
Bucket? Check. Socket wrench? Check. Protective gear, a tech order and a flashlight? Check, check and check.

Armed with a variety of tools, instructions and special equipment, the Airmen of the 191st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron perform a wide variety of inspections, tests and preventative maintenance activities to ensure that the 127th Air Refueling Group's fleet of KC-135 Stratotankers are ready to fly. Maintainers have a number of inspections and checks they perform on the KC-135s to ensure that the massive refuelers are ready to go, said Staff Sgt. Timothy Near, a crew chief.

Working both in hangars and on the flightline at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich., where the units and their aircraft are based, 191st AMXS personnel have a lengthy laundry list of inspections and maintenance checks they perform on the Stratotankers at regular intervals, with a number of checks happening after every 60 hours of flying time and additional checks coming at the 120 hour mark. Other tasks are performed on different intervals as well.

At the 60-hour mark, for example, engine mechanics checks what's known as the "bag plugs" on the engine to check for any potential problems. At the 120-hour mark, the engine's fuel filter is removed, to look for any contamination in the fuel system.

"Doing this kind of work just comes natural to me," said Technical Sgt. Nick Massa. Between active duty and service in the Air National Guard. Massa has about 15 years of service as a military jet engine mechanic. In his civilian job, he works as a mechanic at Detroit Metropolitan Airport for a major package delivery service.

"I work on some of the exact same engines in my civilian job as I do at Selfridge," Massa said. "I've thought about doing other things in the Guard, but I just love working with the aircraft."

During a routine HPO - hourly post-flight inspection - at Selfridge during his unit's December drill weekend, Massa was being assisted by Senior Airman Jeff Hash. Hash has served in the ANG for four years and works on turbines at a power plant as a civilian. Guard units often benefit from having members who bring high levels of outside expertise to their military assignment.

During the December weekend, Near, who works full-time at Selfridge as an aircraft mechanic, said a number of the traditional Guardsman in the 191st were getting training on working on the aircraft.

"We want to make sure they get a chance to stay current, working alongside the full-time people," he said.

While Massa, Hash and other Airmen were working on engine maintenance - ignoring a brisk cold weather bite in Michigan air - Technical Sgt. Tom Brott and Staff Sgt. Gabe Lopez, both members of the electrical shop, were working on changing the oil in the KC-135's Air Cycle Machine, or ACM. Eventually, Airmen from the hydraulics shop and other departments will spend time working on the aircraft to ensure that it is ready to continue flying.

"It is a total team effort to keep our jets flying," Near said.