Defense

July 23, 2012

Squadron overhauls record number of KC-135 booms

by Mike W. Ray
Tinker AFB, Okla.

Air Refueling Boom Shop sheet metal mechanics Ray Faison (from left), J.P. McMurtry and Tim Sanders team to re-install fasteners in a KC-135 refueling boom. Faison uses a long pole with a magnetic end that carries part of a fastener down inside the boom to McMurtry who secures the complete fastener to the skin. Approximately 620 various kinds of fasteners line the top of the boom.

Repairs of KC-135 aerial refueling booms at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., reached a record level last month.

The 18 booms overhauled in June were the most ever repaired in one month since Tinker began working on KC-135 booms in 1993, according to Ginger Keisling, deputy director of the 551st Commodities Maintenance Squadron.

In the Air Refueling Boom Shop of the 551st Commodities Maintenance Squadron, John Ries reinstalls the electrical and hydraulics in a KC-135 refueling boom nozzle. The nozzle protects the boom.

In fact, the 18 booms repaired in June 2012 surpassed by one-half the 12 booms that were repaired in October 2011, which was the most that had been overhauled in any given month in at least two years.

The availability of repair parts from the Defense Logistics Agency was a key reason the milestone was achieved, said Terry Rollings, a supervisor in the 551 CMMXS boom shop. “We finally got all the right parts we needed, and in a timely manner,” he said.

“What the shop accomplished was truly remarkable,” said Mike Mowles, the 551 CMMXS director. “To have overcome so many production issues, including the test stand going down for a week in June, is a testament to the shop’s mechanics and supervisor. In the 19 years of boom shop production, this has never happened before.”

On July 9 the boom shop was working on 52 booms from the U.S. Air Force and two foreign countries. Of those booms, 39 required major overhauls and 13 needed minor overhauls, Rollings said. The 551 CMMXS performs major and minor overhauls of both high-speed and low-speed booms. A major overhaul typically takes about 75 days to perform, Rollings said.

The boom shop repaired 85 booms in fiscal year 2010, and 87 in fiscal 202011. Production during the first nine months of fiscal year 2012 was 77 booms, an average of 8.5 per month, with two and a half months still remaining in the fiscal year.

“We completely disassemble and recondition the telescoping boom, make whatever repairs need to be made, refurbish pieces as needed, then reassemble the boom,” he said. The boom shop does electrical, hydraulic and sheet-metal work on the booms. They chemically strip off the paint, clean the boom, sand and grind it. Finally, the rehabilitated unit is repainted, and a stencil is added which denotes that the boom was overhauled at Tinker in a specific month of a particular year (for example, “Oklahoma City ALC June 2012″).

After a boom is overhauled, and before it’s returned to the customer, the shop performs functional electrical and hydraulic testing on the boom – “just like it’s on the plane but it’s here in the shop,” Rollings said.

The 551st Commodities Maintenance Squadron Boom Shop handles almost every aspect of overhauling the long refueling booms from initial inspection, working sheet metal and reassembly. Sheet metal mechanic Ron Bagby works in a sea of booms.

Other Air Force bases, and even the 76th Aircraft Maintenance Group at Tinker, perform periodic depot maintenance on booms, but, “We’re the only ones in the world who completely overhaul KC-135 booms,” Rollings said.

The 551 CMMXS boom shop has 43 employees and two supervisors: Rollings and David Dean.

“Our boom shop has overcome tremendous obstacles to achieve record production in support of the warfighter,” Keisling said. “Mister Mowles and I are extremely proud of our team.”

The availability of repair parts is critical to the process, Rollings said. “Some parts have to be here a month ahead of time.”

Historically, the boom shop has had to cannibalize some booms to repair others, but the new partnership between DLA Aviation and the 551st Commodities Maintenance Squadron may eliminate the need for that.

The Air Force requested a sustainment solution for the KC-135 Aerial Refueling Boom maintenance program. In response, the DLA came up with integrated Work Packages (iWP), which combine all the material needs per task or stage of repair in the boom shop, and implemented point-of-use, a mechanism to store material near the mechanic responsible for a particular stage of repair.

“We don’t want the mechanics to wait on the parts to be delivered. They should always be readily available,” said Col. Rex Adee, commander of DLA Aviation at Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma City DLA personnel began implementing POU-per-iWP the last week of May. Thanks in large part to subject matter expert support from Ogden Air Logistics Complex at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, full operational capability was achieved on June 8.

“We have a dedicated Supply Planner and a single ‘face’ for Procurement who are my ‘go-to’ persons for all KC-135 boom items,” said Gregory Kennedy, KC-135 Weapon System Program manager, DLA Aviation, Richmond, Va. “This provides assurance that we will have purchase requests and purchase orders in place to ensure that parts are available at the point of use to meet monthly production requirements.”

Kevin O’Connor, Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex vice director, said that in the wing they rely on “the three Ps” to accomplish their mission: People, Parts and Production. “This effort pulls together all three. It improves the Process to make sure our People have the Parts to execute the mission,” he said.

Chance Stevens came to the boom shop three months ago and with seasoned personnel working with him, is enjoying learning his work. Stevens follows a wiring cable outline to reconnect electrical for lights and hydraulics that are installed in the tail cone. The system will then be tested as used on the boom before installed in a waiting tail cone. In flight, the lights help guide the refueler and the receiver in making a safe connection before refueling begins.




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