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Tanker Tracker: a year in the life of 58-0011; Tanker Teamwork

Airmen assigned to the 22nd Maintenance Group work together to complete an isochronal inspection on a KC-135 Stratotanker, April 6, 2015, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan. An isochronal inspection involves taking apart much of the aircraft for an in-depth evaluation of the KC-135’s overall operational condition. It requires 22nd MXG Airmen to come together from various maintenance shops and specialties to accomplish the task. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christopher Thornbury)

Airmen assigned to the 22nd Maintenance Group work together to complete an isochronal inspection on a KC-135 Stratotanker, April 6, 2015, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan. An isochronal inspection involves taking apart much of the aircraft for an in-depth evaluation of the KC-135’s overall operational condition. It requires 22nd MXG Airmen to come together from various maintenance shops and specialties to accomplish the task. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christopher Thornbury)

MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- (Editor's note: This article is part of a series following the journey of Aircraft 58-0011, a KC-135 Stratotanker, leading up to the 60th anniversary of the KC-135 in August 2016.)

Two-hundred eighteen flying hours, 24 sorties and more than 400,000 pounds of fuel offloaded to 20 receiving aircraft.

Those are the numbers Aircraft 58-0011 put up this month downrange, but without the Airmen who work together to ensure it is in good, working order, these successful missions would not have been possible.

Maintenance Airmen from more than 15 air force specialty codes work together to keep aircraft 58-0011 and other KC-135 Stratotankers like it in the air while at home as well as in a deployed environment.

The maintenance of a KC-135 is broken down into different specialties. Every 22nd MXG Airmen works to identify any discrepancies, fix any problem or coordinate operations.

Electrical environmental systems, hydraulics, metals technology and aircraft fuels systems are just a few examples of the different areas of a KC-135 that require maintenance attention.

"One person can't go out and fix the jet," said 1st Lt. Joseph Kraynak, 22nd MXG maintenance operations officer in charge. "The age of the aircraft requires us to have very specific system knowledge so we can maintain it for many years. It's important that we are all extremely knowledgeable in our craft and understand the importance of how we need to integrate our jobs."

It is even more important for maintenance teams to work together in a deployed setting in order to keep up with the increased workload.

"The workload over in a deployed location is much heavier," said Staff Sgt. Daniel Williams, 22nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief. "The jets fly a lot more with a lot heavier fuel loads, which increases the chances for something to break."

Although these individual "tanker doctors" may have different short term missions when working on the aircraft, at the end of the day they all share a similar goal.

"That's what we want each and every day, to see jets take off," said Tech. Sgt. James Pope, 22nd AMXS instrument flight control technician. "And when they land we start the process all over again. Everybody does their piece."

Maintenance Airmen from various units dedicated more than 3,000 labor hours toward the upkeep of Aircraft 58-0011 in September. The time spent working on the aircraft included scheduled inspections and maintenance on the engines, instrumentation and the airframe itself.