Pin the tail on the KC-135: MacDill maintainers tackle rare opportunity

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Rito Smith
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

Airmen from the 6th Maintenance Squadron (MXS) at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, had the rare opportunity of replacing a broken rudder on a KC-135 Stratotanker Sept. 16, 2016.

The task was no easy feat, however, MacDill’s maintenance Airmen were up for the challenge.

They began their task by folding and removing the jet’s fin, allowing them to replace the rudder that is attached to the fin. This task requires at a minimum; one crane operator, one spotter, and two additional maintainers to remove the fin.

In addition to the personnel required for the fin fold, 10 maintainers are needed to man a rope for the tricky task of breaking the fin’s center of gravity, creating a counter balance as it is being lowered.

“From start to finish our maintainers put in about 72 man man-hours to ensure the rudder is replaced correctly,” said Master Sgt. Leslie Foti, aerospace section chief assigned to the 6th MXS. “The two teams required to complete the task worked alternating shifts to ensure the part was fixed accurately and timely.”

Maintainers consistently work 12 hour shifts in order to ensure that any task they are given is completed accurately and in a timely fashion. 

“The most important thing is that the maintainers take their time to ensure everything is completed safely and according to the technical instructions,” said Foti. “They do this in order to provide a safe aircraft for our pilots to fly and complete the mission.”

It’s essential to the 6th Air Mobility Wing’s mission that the aircraft assigned to MacDill are safe to fly and ready to deploy.

“If we shortfall one of our missions it puts a strain on the entire Air Force,” said Tech. Sgt. Martin De Jesus an aerospace maintainer assigned to the 6th MXS. “That’s why it’s important that we work hard to keep all of our aircraft ready.”

Removing the fin in order to replace the rudder was an enormous task that required Airmen to be knowledgeable as well as confident in their work.

“Our main focus was to do it safe and do it right to get it done,” said De Jesus. “We had the guidance from leadership so we were confident from day one that we could complete our mission.”

The critical role that maintainers play in the mission allows them to see firsthand how their jobs affect the base as well as the Air Force.

“When we see the aircraft take off and then come back with no issues, it feels great,” said De Jesus. “We know that we did the work, we made that flight happen and we are proud that.”