MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
The skies were calm over the state of New York as a KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, cruised through the veil of blue, en route to a deployment. All of a sudden, un-commanded flight control movements began to inexplicably shake the aircraft. As the pilots rushed to troubleshoot the situation, the aircraft began to drop altitude.
The pilots decided to manually restore power to the engines, which worked in keeping the aircraft in the air. But the crew had no choice but to ground the aircraft for inspections.
The crew safely landed at Bangor Air National Guard Base, Maine, July 2, 2019, where maintenance Airmen quickly stepped up to recover the aircraft.
Inspections revealed a crack in the power rudder. Reports filed to Air Mobility Command and the 618th Air Operations Center (Tanker Airlift Control Center/XOCL), Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, initiated the Maintenance Recovery Team.
“XOCL called and said they needed a team so we put together a list of who all needed to be there and what all needed support” said Master Sgt. Louis Lusco, the 6th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron fabrication flight chief, who spent 29 days on the recovery team.
Upon arrival, the maintenance team, comprised of 17 MacDill personnel, four maintainers from McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas and one from the Pittsburgh ANG, Pennsylvania, further inspected the aircraft and brainstormed ideas to approach the task.
After deciding as a team the tail needed to be removed, the first challenge the team faced was acquiring a crane or lift. Lusco promptly improvised to contract a crane and operator to lift the tail from the aircraft onto two tractor-trailers cushioned by mattresses.
“We did things considered unorthodox, but in certain situations we had to evaluate if the benefits outweighed the risks and we determined they did,” said Master Sgt. Martin De Jesus, 6th MXS periodic inspection coordinator. “This was unheard of and nerve-racking, but we were doing whatever worked to prevent any further damage to the tail.”
With certain resources not readily available, Lusco spent considerable time acquiring whatever the team needed to continue their work. Collaboration between the Total Force maintenance team and personnel from Bangor was critical to mission success.
“The whole team up there was outstanding, anything we needed they took care of,” said Lusco. “They were extremely helpful, great hosts.”
After a month of determination and collaboration, the pilots confirmed the completion of work Aug. 4 with flawless operational check flights.
“We were all watching the take-off and when they were in the air around 30 minutes, it was a relief the work was done right,” said De Jesus. “I’m very grateful that with the complications we had, everyone did what they were supposed to do and everything got done the right way.”
In dire situations, MacDill and the U.S. Air Force as a whole prove that determination and teamwork always prevail.
“This is what I like the best about the Air Force, they can bring a bunch of people together in an extremely fast manner to get a job done,” said Lusco. “It’s what we’re about – teams.”