U.S. Air Force Shop Repairs Record Corrosion Damage

Senior Airman Tori Harkness, aircraft structural maintenance journeyman for the 434th MXS, replaces a rivet on a KC-135R Stratotanker. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alexis Morris.

At Grissom Air Reserve Base, Indiana, USA, the 434th Maintenance Squadron’s aircraft structural maintenance shop recently spent more than 1,000 man hours in November 2023 repairing corrosion on the leading edge of a KC-135R Stratotanker’s wings.

The project required approximately 12,000 rivets and over 70 feet (21.3 m) of aircraft skin to be removed—representing the most amount of skin removed from an aircraft at one time at Grissom Air Reserve Base in the last 12 years, according to Master Sgt. Christopher Robinson, aircraft structural maintenance supervisor for the 434th MXS.

“When the jet came in for its regularly scheduled isochronal inspection, we were going through our checklists and one of the technicians found corrosion in one part of the leading edge,” Robinson says. “Then, they started to look at all of the leading edge and found about 70 feet between both sides that needed repair.”

Senior Airman Toni Harkness, aircraft structural maintenance journeyman for the 434th MXS, says the project’s scope was unlike those typically handled within the sheet metal flight.

“When you know what they’re doing, they can be simple,” Harkness recalls. “But it gets harder the more into the structure you get. It looks very easy from the outside but going in and seeing everything that comes into play, the different cords, wires, pipes, the structure of it in general, you get to really see just how intricate and how important it is.”

The Grissom tail was the first to be repaired by the shop since the squadron began a new mission in October. The Hoosier Wing is now responsible for the regional periodic inspection of almost all KC-135R Stratotankers assigned to Air Force Reserve Command.

“I have an immense appreciation for all the individuals that have been working on it because we've worked a lot of longer days, which is not typical to our schedule,” Robinson says. “And everybody maintains a positive attitude throughout it, which makes the days go by just that much better.”

Source: U.S. Defense Visual Information Distribution Service, www.dvidshub.net.