Programmed depot maintenance modernizes KC-135s

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Kiaundra Miller
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

With eight buildings, nearly 3,000 workers, and 26 KC-135 Stratotankers, the 564th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, is the largest squadron in the U.S. Air Force, dedicated to providing programmed depot maintenance and upgrades to all U.S. Air Force KC-135s. 

 

Through a tedious process of inspections and upgrades to out-of-date aircraft parts, PDM ensures KC-135s continue the Rapid Global Mobility mission over the next 40 years, allowing the Stratotanker fleet to fly operationally for nearly 100 years before their anticipated retirement.

 

“These are old jets, and the fact that we’re still flying them shows how well-built they were; [PDM] is just our way of making sure they stay flyable at all times,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Nicholas Meinhart, 97th Air Refueling Squadron pilot. “It helps all of us trust in this aircraft. As old as it is, we know they are being poured over every so often by the depot guys and they check everything out to make sure it’s still good to fly.”

 

The Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex team constantly strives to provide efficient and incremental inspections to conserve U.S. Air Force resources.

 

“We do analytical and critical inspections during which engineering will project where mishaps may occur and [based on that information] we’ll do inspections,” said Bryan Clark, 564th AMXS production flight chief.

 

The OC-ALC team further supports mission readiness and conservation of Air Force resources through using a three-dimensional printer to fabricate aircraft parts in the Reverse Engineering and Critical Tooling Lab.

 

“We take components we need and the REACT Lab prints us the specific part,” Clark said. “We can then put it on the plane to make sure it fits and functions correctly; from there, our engineers can make us the real part for use in the PDM process.”

 

Upgrades are often included on the KC-135s during the PDM process, ensuring functionality of the aircraft and allowing the Stratotankers to fly air refueling missions at any time.

 

“Some of it is preventive maintenance, but they’re also upgrading the jet,” Meinhart said. “They will be giving us...a more modern auto-pilot and replacing individual gauges with one big screen that highlights an engine issue in yellow or red to get your attention. [The screen] will also show a weather radar or map on one side, [and it will also provide] more functionality while aerial refueling.”

 

PDM ensures Airmen and Department of Defense members are able to strengthen existing capabilities through utilization of modern technology, inspections to predict potential mechanical issues, and aircraft upgrades, ultimately ensuring the safety of Airmen and enabling mission success.