22nd MXG tackles 60 year old maintenance issue

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jenna K. Caldwell
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Airmen from the 22nd Maintenance Group have resolved a maintenance problem that has plagued KC-135 Stratotanker maintainers for over 60 years.

When maintenance issues arise in an area of the plane called the ‘hell hole,’ there was never a safe option in how to reach and repair that area of the plane without a quality assurance detected safety violation.

“The ‘hell hole’ is just forward of the tail of the aircraft on the left side,” said Tech. Sgt. Daniel Lawson, 22nd Maintenance Squadron support section noncommissioned officer in charge. “Originally, the floor of an aerospace ground equipment stand wasn’t close enough to the aircraft and there would be approximately a two-foot gap and Airmen would have to stand on the rails in order to reach that section of the aircraft to do their inspections.”

The ‘hell hole’ is the section of the KC-135 that maintenance Airmen have to access in order to repair sections such as the rudder and elevators. To combat this repair issue, Airmen developed and constructed a padded rail system that allows Airmen access to that part of the KC-135 without risking their safety or damaging the aircraft.

“The normal AGE stands are completely rectangular, so what we did was cut the metal to size and bent it to the radius of the aircraft so that it forms around it,” said Senior Airman Jacob Weber, 22nd MXS metals technician. “We then welded that to the original stand and added a foam additive to the metal. Now, the modified stand forms right to the KC-135 without damaging it and Airmen can climb in and back out of the hole safely.”

From idea to conception the development of the stand took six months and shops from all over maintenance took part in the process.

“Metals technology designed and manufactured the stand, sheet metal painted it and aerospace ground equipment maintains it,” said Master Sgt. Chad Ditsch, 22nd Maintenance Group logistic resource management program manager.

Numerous maintenance specialties such crew chiefs, hydraulics systems, aerospace maintenance, guidance and controls, electro-environmental systems, sheet metal and metals technology will all use the newly modified hell hole stand as part of their job.