Fixing for fuel: maintainers lay ground work for aerial refueling

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Victor J. Caputo
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
The KC-135 Stratotanker strategically delivers fuel to aircraft all over the world, but how is the Stratotanker able to consistently accomplish that mission?

The Airmen in the 22nd Maintenance Squadron accessories flight aircraft fuels system repair section make sure it's good to go.

"My job here is to fix the inside of the fuel tanks," Airman 1st Class Alan Bounds, 22nd MXS aircraft fuels system technician.

The aircraft fuels system repair section maintains and repairs KC-135 fuel systems here. The shop covers everything from leaking fuel tanks to faulty valves, including any repairs needed on the inside of the fuel tanks.

"I actually really like getting inside the fuel tanks," said Bound. "It's isolated, there's not too much going on, it's just you working and turning a wrench."

While a portion of the job can be simplified to the phrase "lefty-loosey, righty-tighty," Bounds emphasized that there is a lot more to his responsibilities than turning a wrench.

"The hardest part about our job is troubleshooting," he said. "We have to narrow the problem down so that we know exactly where we need to go in and make a repair."

The shop's purpose ultimately boils down to two different functions: making sure each KC-135 can safely use its own fuel, and that each aircraft can safely offload the same fuel to receiving aircraft.

"We work with the wings, we have tanks in the forward and aft bodies which are accessed through the bottom of the fuselage, and there's an upper deck tank that's set at the back of the cargo bay," said Master Sgt. Robert Dunaway, aircraft fuels system repair section chief. "We're pretty much nose-to-tail and wingtip-to-wingtip."

McConnell houses several models of the KC-135, and the differences between them can take time to learn.

"You really have to spend a considerable amount of time with the airframe," said Dunaway. "There's a lot to learn and a lot of subtle differences between the models."

The Airmen in the shop also pride themselves on their ability to work hand-in-hand with 931st Maintenance Squadron personnel from the 931st Air Refueling Group, Air Force Reserve Command.

"We have about 60 people," said Dunaway, "Five of them are reserve personnel. We're integrated to the point where we show no separation between the two, and that's very important to what we do here."

The overall goal of the shop is no different than any of the other shops in the maintenance group, said Dunaway.

"It's really about putting safe aircraft in the air," he said. "Not only do we worry about the flights and the crews on the KC-135s, but we worry about the different airframes that refuel."

Dunaway and the Airmen in his shop ultimately provide the means for safe aerial refueling wherever and whenever it is needed.