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Safety first: 6th MXS ensure KC-135s structural integrity

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Tori Schultz
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
Airmen assigned to the 6th Maintenance Squadron (MXS) recently performed a two-week hard-landing inspection at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, after a KC-135 Stratotanker experienced a hard landing in Phoenix, Arizona.

The inspection was required to ensure the aircraft is mission capable and no damage occurred during the landing.

“A hard-landing inspection is unscheduled aircraft maintenance due to malfunction or damage,” said Staff Sgt. Eric Holton, an aerospace propulsion craftsman assigned to the 6th MXS. “It allows us to repair or replace damaged items, and verifies that the aircraft is safe for flight and mission ready.”

As a team, MXS Airmen systematically dismantled the KC-135 from nose to tail to determine if any damage was caused during landing. A major part of the inspection was removing, inspecting and reinstalling all four aircraft engines, one at a time.

“The engine removal is to facilitate inspection on the bolts that mount the engines to the airframe, as well as the mounts themselves,” said Holton. “The engines must also pass an internal borescope inspection, which allows the maintainers to inspect parts not visible to the naked eye.”

During these inspections, maintainers are looking for cracks, structural damage, and wear and tear on engine parts.

“Hard-landing inspections are more common in deployed environments,” said Airman 1st Class Blake Bennett, an aerospace propulsion journeyman assigned to the 6th MXS. “We appreciate the opportunity to apply our training and hone our skills at our home station.”

For aerospace propulsion Airmen, engine removal and installation is the focal point of their job.

“Engine changes are pinnacle in aerospace propulsion; so most of our training comes together during these pivotal moments,” said Bennett. “Technical data is our guiding force, but experience, proficiency, and a constant assessment of safety concerns are what it really takes.”

The aerospace propulsion team worked around the clock to guarantee the KC-135 engines are in operating condition and can fly with the fleet to refuel aircraft around the world.

“Engine removal, installation and the inspection process takes approximately 36 hours,” said Holton. “Overall, it takes more than 160 hours of labor to complete the inspection of four engines, along with performing operational checks.”

Together, the 6th MXS Airmen guarantee the KC-135 continues to deliver air refueling and air mobility support for the Air Force during joint and coalition operations. This, in turn, ensures that MacDill remains prepared for tomorrow’s rapid global mobility.