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Maintainers preserve aging KC-10 fleet

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Zachary Martyn
  • Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst Public Affairs

JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. -- The KC-10 Extender took its first flight in 1980, and it’s no secret that the Air Force’s premiere refueling aircraft has reached a venerable age. But, the aircraft’s long and rigorous service has taken its toll and round-the-clock maintenance is required to keep them airborne. ]

The dedicated maintainers with the 605th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year here to ensure the reliability and safety of the KC-10 Extender fleet.  As the high mission pace continues to wear down the already strained aircraft, the maintainers are running into entirely new issues.   

“Many of our main issues are occurring more often as time goes on, but there are new issues popping up as well,” said Senior Airman Brandon Jones, 605th AMXS KC-10 Extender electrician. “Figuring out the problem with these aircraft is becoming more challenging as new and different issues arise. It takes hours, sometimes days, of methodical troubleshooting.”   

One of the biggest issues the maintainers face is the lack of replacement parts due to the age of the KC-10. Damaged or worn parts are sent away to be refurbished. Occasionally broken parts are fabricated when possible, but typically lose quality compared to the original manufactured parts.   

“They don’t make new parts for this aircraft anymore,” said Master Sgt. Corey Williams, 605th AMXS production superintendent. “We have a finite number of parts, and when they’re gone – they’re gone. Everything is refurbished.”   

Recently, Joint Base MDL was selected to receive the next generation of refueling aircraft, the KC-46 Pegasus. It is hoped the Pegasus will ultimately replace the KC-10 Extender, allowing for a less maintenance-intensive and more reliable fleet of new aircraft.   

“The KC-46 Pegasus will definitely lower the amount of man-hours required to maintain our fleet,” said Williams. “Currently we can’t afford to take a break, even to train. It would put us too far behind.”   

It will likely be a few years before the KC-46 Pegasus makes its debut here. Until then, the dedicated maintainers will work, rain or shine, to ensure Air Mobility Command and the Joint Base can continue to accomplish the mission with the KC-10 Extender.   

“Our maintainers do a good job – they do the most they can with the resources they’re given and they are proud of what they do,” said Williams. “There has to be a wrench turning at all times just to keep up the pace. We cannot indefinitely refuel 5th generation aircraft with 2nd generation refuelers.”