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KC-135 depot maintenance, first at MacDill

A KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft rests on jacks during maintenance, July 3, 2019, at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. A 6th Air Mobility Wing inspection team discovered a crack in one of the aircraft’s trunnions and joined forces with Tinker Air Force Base’s aircraft repair depot to fix it. This is the first time this type of maintenance has been performed at MacDill.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Frank Rohrig)

A KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft rests on jacks during maintenance, July 3, 2019, at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. A 6th Air Mobility Wing inspection team discovered a crack in one of the aircraft’s trunnions and joined forces with Tinker Air Force Base’s aircraft repair depot to fix it. This is the first time this type of maintenance has been performed at MacDill. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Frank Rohrig)

A KC-135 Stratotanker sits, July 1, 2019, at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla.

A KC-135 Stratotanker sits, July 1, 2019, at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. The engines and landing gear were taken off the aircraft so it could be hoisted up for depot level repairs by the 76th Maintenance Group, Tinker Air Force Base, Okla. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan C. Grossklag)

U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Eric Holton, a 6th Maintenance Squadron (MXS) aerospace propulsion NCO in charge, and Staff Sgt. Neftali Torres Cruz, a 6th MXS crew chief, inspect the cowling of a KC-135 Stratotanker, July 1, 2019, at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla.

U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Eric Holton, a 6th Maintenance Squadron (MXS) aerospace propulsion NCO in charge, and Staff Sgt. Neftali Torres Cruz, a 6th MXS crew chief, inspect the cowling of a KC-135 Stratotanker, July 1, 2019, at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. The maintenance team prepared a KC-135 for depot-level repairs to the landing gear trunnion, a pivot in the landing gear designed to move the gear smoothly from the wing to its proper engaged position, by removing the engines and landing gear so the aircraft could be hoisted up. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan C. Grossklag)

A 6th Maintenance Squadron maintainer helps to prepare a KC-135 for the 76th Maintenance Group depot team from Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., July 1st, 2019, at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla.

A 6th Maintenance Squadron maintainer helps to prepare a KC-135 for the 76th Maintenance Group depot team from Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., July 1st, 2019, at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. Damage prevented the aircraft from being flown to Tinker for repairs. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan C. Grossklag)

Airmen from the 6th Maintenance Squadron remove the engine from a KC-135 Stratotanker, July 1, 2019, MacDill Air Force Base, Fla.

Airmen from the 6th Maintenance Squadron remove the engine from a KC-135 Stratotanker, July 1, 2019, MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. The maintainers aligned a stand with the engine and chained them together in order to safely remove it from the wing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan C. Grossklag)

6th Maintenance Group maintainers pause for a photo, July 1, 2019, MacDill Air Force Base, Fla.

6th Maintenance Group maintainers pause for a photo, July 1, 2019, MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. Maintenance crews worked day and night removing engines and landing gear from a KC-135 Stratotanker in order to hoist the aircraft for depot maintenance at MacDill for the first time.(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan C. Grossklag)

MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --

The ability to adapt and react to a change in plans or process is key to high functioning operations like the 6th Maintenance Squadron. This idea is in full effect at MacDill, as Airmen are preparing a KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft for much more in-depth maintenance than they’ve performed before.

The KC-135 sustained damage to a pivot in the landing gear of the aircraft’s left wing. The pivot is designed to move the gear smoothly from the wing to its proper engaged position. Under normal circumstances, pilots would fly the aircraft to the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex, Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., for depot maintenance by the 76th Maintenance Group. Given the severity of the damage, assessments ruled out a one-time flight to Tinker.

The first task was to remove all four engines and close the cowling doors that house them. The Airmen then removed the landing gear making it possible to lift the aircraft up on jacks without putting massive amounts of stress on the wings from the weight.

“Getting all four engines closed with the cowlings closed at the same time is not something we do on a day-to-day basis,” said Air Force Master Sgt. Nicholas Chapman, 6th Maintenance Squadron production superintendent. “It’s a challenge that’s driving everybody to work a little harder.”

Working outside of their normal parameters, the team displayed their ability to adjust to new technical orders on the fly, while remaining diligent with their processes.

“Typically maintenance performed is scheduled, very methodical and process driven,” said Tech Sgt. Eric Holton, 6th MXS aerospace propulsion NCO in charge “Under these unique circumstances, the team is doing a fantastic job recognizing safety.”

All together maintenance expects to take approximately three weeks. The depot team are experts in handling the work load involved with large rivets, which makes them necessary, according to Chapman.

Upon completion, the repaired KC-135 will return to the skies to execute unmatched air refueling and rapid global mobility.