434th Maintenance Group

My adventures as a Grissom Honorary Commander continued in September with a visit to the 434th Maintenance Group. This group has the mountainous task of maintaining and repairing the planes at Grissom Air Reserve Base.

From fabricating sheet metal to changing tires to replacing an engine, this crew does it all. They have machines to suck the nitrogen out of the air to fill tires, they have a giant drill press with bits that go up to 3″ in diameter, they even have jacks to lift a KC-135 off the ground.

We visited the nondestructive inspection unit, which is like a science lab for mechanics. They have all the fun toys. They can run all kinds of tests to determine the strength and conductivity of metals. They can do a magnetic particle inspection and use blacklight to find cracks in metal parts. Then they can use a microscopic camera to look at the cracks up close and determine whether they can be repaired. They also have a really cool machine that can test the makeup of oils and help them determine which part of the plane is breaking down and may need maintenance.

You never really think about all the work that goes into keeping these planes running and looking great. All those moving parts and instruments have to be working all the time. The KC-135s were made in the late 50s/early 60s and the 434th Maintenance Group keeps these planes running like new. Many of the parts are no longer manufactured, but this group can fabricate new parts or recycle old parts when needed. They have one amazing task, and they’re doing an amazing job.

At the end of the day, we took a detour to the new $7.5 million air traffic control tower. Wow! It is beautiful and a much-needed upgrade from the old tower. It is amazing to look out those windows at the airfield. We had a great opportunity to walk out on the catwalk just as a KC-135 was coming in for a landing, and we watched it taxi in just a couple hundred yards away. Another awesome day at Grissom!

Grissom 434th Maintenance Group

Grissom 434th Maintenance Group

Drill bit sizes

Teeny tiny drill bit, giant humongo drill bit

Fabricated metal parts

Fabricated metal parts

Machine shop

Machine shop

Machine shop

Staff Sgt. Shawn Cherty, 434th Maintenance Squadron metals technology specialist, shows us some of the machines in the shop.

Ultrasound machine used on metals

Using an ultrasound machine to test metals

Sheet metal shop

Wheels get repaired, shined up and reused to save cost

Grissom Air Traffic Control Tower

Grissom’s new $7.5 million air traffic control tower

Grissom's Air Traffic Control Tower

About to watch a plane land from 9 stories up at Grissom’s new air traffic control tower

Grissom's Air Traffic Control Tower

Watching a KC-135 land from atop Grissom’s new air traffic control tower

Kahuna Henge

Kahuna Henge!

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2 thoughts on “434th Maintenance Group

  1. When I worked on KC-135’s, I worked with men who had once been stationed at Grissom. Great guys. We did a lot of the same things that you talked about here. The planes came in and we striped them down and when they left, every part of the plane had been gone over with a fine tooth comb. I enjoyed my job of working on the inboard engine.

    What always amazed me is that when a plane is painted, it has to be weighed to see how many gallons on paint was used. Can you imagine how many gallons it takes to cover that big plane? I wish I had asked.

    It is also amazing how long these planes have been in service. As you mentioned, they started building them in the fifties. The tail numbers can tell one when. I can’t remember that part but I bet you know.

    I enjoyed reading your blog. It brought back some good memories.

    • Cassie Dull says:

      Thanks so much! I’m glad you enjoyed the blog and it brought back some good memories! I’ve had such a great time this year getting to know the wonderful people at Grissom and the hard work they do every day.

      I can imagine it takes many, many gallons of paint to cover a plane! Maintenance crews are very meticulous in taking such great care of these planes, and I am very thankful for that.

      I believe it’s the first two numbers of the tail number that tell you the year the plane was built. Grissom has several KC-135s with numbers from 57-64.

      Thanks for reading!

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