86 MXS puts KC-135 back to work

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Savannah L. Waters
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Col. Clifton Reed, 6th Maintenance Group commander, visited Ramstein Air Base Oct. 2, 2017, to personally thank the Airmen who helped repair a KC-135 from MacDill Air Force Base, Fla, for their hard work and diligence.

"The last 60 days were a testament to the teamwork and pride the 86th MXG has in mission generation and customer support,” said Capt. Brandon Ray, 86th Maintenance Squadron operations officer. “It's an honor that Col. Reed traveled from Florida to thank us for the support we provided on the KC-135 because we take great pride in embodying a ‘One Team, One Fight’ mentality.”

The KC-135 Stratotanker landed at Ramstein because the plane experienced a fuel leak during a routine mission en route to Al Udeid.

When the maintenance recovery team arrived from MacDill, the 86th MXS team assigned to repair the KC-135 discovered the leak was because of a ruptured fuel bladder on the aircraft’s left wing.

A new fuel bladder arrived Aug. 24 and during the pressurization and leak checks the team found another fuel leak on the same wing. Troubleshooting to identify the cause of the fuel leak, the team found a 5-inch crack under the cabin floor causing pressurization issues resulting in the ruptured fuel bladders. 

“There was a crack in what we call the pressure web,” said Tech. Sgt. Zachary Sidlovsky, 86th MXS aircraft structural maintenance craftsman. “It’s not just a metal tank where it holds all this pressurization, but a thick synthetic rubber cell. It’s like a sardine can, it would get tight and all that pressurization would leak down into the fuel cell through the crack, eventually exploding the cell.”

The 86th MXS fabricated, milled, trimmed, and primed pieces for installation, then, installed and sealed them.

Together, the teams executed a 96-hour structural repair and a 30-hour repair for the fuel bladder installation, the leaks and the pressurization checks.

“We saw two different bases get together, we all made a game plan, and stuck to it,” Sidlovsky said. “It was one of the rare occasions where everything just meshed really well.”

As this team worked, the 86th MXG also worked on other high profile, high impact projects, supporting crews from the California National Guard and Dyess Air Force Base, and continued their rigorous heavy maintenance support on aircraft from three wings and exercises throughout U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Africa.

The 86th MXG was proud to work with the 6th MXG in order to get the KC-135 back in the air.

“We pride ourselves on never letting our teammates down, and we have a ready and resilient team prepared to answer the call at a moment's notice,” Ray said. “As a leader, it's remarkable to look back at everything we've accomplished. But, then again, for us this is just standard ops!"