Fit for flight: 6th AMXS maintains KC-135

A maintenance Airman checks the pressure of a hydraulic system during a 900-hour inspection at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., May 16, 2018. This inspection occurs after an aircraft has flown 900 hours. MacDill’s contribution to global mobility is possible because of the maintenance Airmen who dedicate countless hours to ensure aircraft are fit for flight.

A maintenance Airman checks the pressure of a hydraulic system during a 900-hour inspection at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., May 16, 2018. This inspection occurs after an aircraft has flown 900 hours. MacDill’s contribution to global mobility is possible because of the maintenance Airmen who dedicate countless hours to ensure aircraft are fit for flight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Caleb Nunez)

An aircraft maintenance crewmember screws a panel on top of a KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft during a 900-hour inspection at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., May 16, 2018. This inspection occurs after an aircraft has flown 900 hours. MacDill’s contribution to global mobility is possible because of the maintenance Airmen who dedicate countless hours to ensure aircraft are fit for flight.

An aircraft maintenance crewmember screws a panel on top of a KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft during a 900-hour inspection at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., May 16, 2018. This inspection occurs after an aircraft has flown 900 hours. MacDill’s contribution to global mobility is possible because of the maintenance Airmen who dedicate countless hours to ensure aircraft are fit for flight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Caleb Nunez)

An aircraft maintenance crewmember unscrews a KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft panel during a 900-hour inspection at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., May 16, 2018. During this inspection, maintenance crewmembers perform major and minor servicing to the aircraft’s structure. MacDill’s contribution to global mobility is possible because of the maintenance Airmen who dedicate countless hours to ensure aircraft are fit for flight.

An aircraft maintenance crewmember unscrews a KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft panel during a 900-hour inspection at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., May 16, 2018. During this inspection, maintenance crewmembers perform major and minor servicing to the aircraft’s structure. MacDill’s contribution to global mobility is possible because of the maintenance Airmen who dedicate countless hours to ensure aircraft are fit for flight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Caleb Nunez)

MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- For more than 60 years, the KC-135 Stratotanker has executed rapid global mobility by providing unmatched air refueling and airlift support worldwide.

This is only made possible by the Airmen who dedicate countless man-hours to ensure mission capability through the care and maintenance of these aircraft.

One of the most extensive inspections performed on these aging aircraft, which ensures they are fit for flight, is the 900-hour inspection.

“A 900-hour inspection is due after an aircraft has flown for 900 hours,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Kenneth Zimmerman, an expediter assigned to the 6th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. “It identifies any serious safety issues within the structure of the airframe and helps prevent catastrophes and mishaps in the future.”

The inspection starts with de-paneling the aircraft, followed by documenting and fixing any identified discrepancies. This, coupled with major and minor servicing of the airframe’s structures, makes up the inspection. The aircraft panels are then screwed back on and the inspection is finished. Depending on how many Airmen are assigned to the aircraft, the process could last up to a week.

“This is the most extensive inspection we do here on the flightline,” Zimmerman said. “Just like any other inspection, we look for anything broken, missing, cracked, loose or damaged.”

In order to complete the inspection in a timely manner, the maintenance crew works 24-hour operations to undo over 1,500 screws, remove the panels and inspect the numerous systems.

“These guys come in early to get their tools, and stay late to turn them in,” Zimmerman said. “So a 12-hour shift sometimes ends up being 13 or 14 hours.”

Despite the long hours of hard work, the Airmen feel a great sense of pride when the mission is accomplished.

“It’s fulfilling to see the jets up in the air because I know all my work helped to put it there,” said Airman 1st Class Alexander Arroliga, a refuel aircraft maintenance apprentice assigned to the 6th AMXS.

It’s because of these dedicated Airmen that the 6th Air Mobility Wing is America’s most responsive, reliable and renowned mobility wing.

“Doing these inspections prolongs the aircraft’s service time,” Zimmerman said. “They are key in keeping the KC-135 in the air and in the fight.”

Together, the Airmen of the 6th AMXS guarantee the KC-135 continues to deliver unmatched air refueling and airlift support around the clock and around the world.