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Rub-a-dub-dub, a KC-46 gets a scrub

22 ARW

Dan Verkuilen, contractor, sprays water on the tail of the KC-46A Pegasus at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., July 13, 2019. Fire hoses washing the KC-46 use around 50 pounds per square inch of water pressure. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Marc A. Garcia)


After being on station for 180 days, a KC-46A Pegasus received its first wash July 13, 2019, as part of a corrosion control and prevention program.

“Long term, it’s just to help keep the airplanes going,” said Tech Sgt. Joseph Roberts, 22nd Maintenance Squadron contract officer representative.

Roberts mentioned that according to technical guidance from higher headquarters, each aircraft is to be washed every 180 days to help prevent corrosion, which includes the KC-135 Stratotanker.

In order to help prevent corrosion, a contracted wash team made certain the entire aircraft was thoroughly cleaned.

The wash team spent an estimated 12 hours ensuring the Pegasus was ready for its next flight. During that time, 11 contractors scrubbed every part of the aircraft. Roberts explained that he expects the time it takes to completely wash the KC-46 will lessen as the crews become more familiar with the airframe.

Describing the process, Roberts said the Pegasus had areas taped off to prevent water and soap intrusion, and a post-wash lubrication was applied to the joints to prevent water entrapment.

Staff Sgt. Stephanie Heuer, 22nd MXS corrosion control facility floor supervisor, explained that since the metals are lapsed in the joint, it creates a higher chance of corrosion in those areas if water was to sit between the parts.

Heuer said that if the corrosion is not found, it could decrease the longevity of the aircraft. Fortunately, washing, priming and painting can help increase the years of use for an aircraft. If traces of corrosion are found, the location is sanded and protective chemicals are applied.

“It has nothing to do with making [the aircraft] look pretty,” said Roberts. “It’s all about corrosion prevention.”

Heuer explained that corrosion is the oxidization of metal, which could be caused by rain, humidity or an accumulation of dirt on the aircraft.

The washing process is the first part of preventing corrosion that can occur on multiple metal surfaces on any aircraft. According to the U.S. Air Force Corrosion Prevention and Control Office, the process improves the equipment service life, structural integrity and mission readiness.

The process has played an important role in the life span of the KC-135, which is now over 60 years old. It will also be a significant step in the upkeep of the KC-46.