Tag Archives: 434th arw

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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Grissom Honorary Commanders: 434th ARW Operations Group

On March 16, the Grissom Honorary Commanders were invited to check out the 434th ARW Operations Group on base. Ops Group Commander Colonel Chris Amend showed us the air traffic control center and the KC-135 flight simulator on base.

We spent the morning visiting with the expert air traffic control folks at RAPCON (Radar Approach Control) and had the chance to guide some planes to a safe landing in the ATC tower simulator. Grissom controls all air traffic up to 10,000 feet from central Indiana to Chicago. They saw a huge increase in air traffic for the Super Bowl in February but of course handled it with ease.

In the afternoon, we were in for a special treat with the opportunity to take the controls in the cockpit of the KC-135 flight simulator. It was amazing to sit in that pilot’s seat, looking out at the runway at Pearl Harbor, and lift a plane up off the ground and over the harbor. Being 8 months pregnant at the time, I opted to do my simulation without the motion, but with it on, that machine tilts back far enough to throw you back in your seat.

It was amazing how much muscle power it takes to steer the plane and bank it left and right. But once he switched on the autopilot, it’s just a matter of tapping a button. The real fun part was learning how to land. But with expert guidance from our instructor, I kept an eye on the gauges, lined up with the runway and landed her safely on the ground.

I am so honored to be part of this Honorary Commanders program and have the opportunity for these rare experiences.

KC-135 Flight Simulator

In the pilot's seat of the KC-135 Flight Simulator

KC-135 Flight Simulator

Landing a plane in the KC-135 Flight Simulator

Honorary Commanders visit KC-135 flight simulator

Honorary Commanders visit KC-135 flight simulator (U.S. Air Force photo)

Grissom ATC Simulator

ATC Simulator

Grissom RAPCON

Grissom RAPCON

Grissom Air Traffic Control

New Grissom Air Traffic Control Tower to open summer 2012

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Flying in a giant gas tank: The 434th ARW at Grissom ARB

Refueling mid-air from a KC-135RA few weeks ago, I was invited to participate in a special social media event with Hoosier PRSA and Grissom Air Reserve Base in Indiana. Yesterday, we went up in a KC-135R Stratotanker on a mission to refuel several C-17s along the Appalachian Mountains (WV, VA, NC, SC, & GA). We had the opportunity to lay down in the pit with the boom operator and sit in the cockpit with the pilots. It was an amazing experience! I’ll let the pictures and videos speak for themselves (see the Roll Call at the bottom of this post for links).

Fun facts I learned about Grissom Air Reserve Base and the 434th Air Refueling Wing:

  • Grissom is an alternate landing site for the space shuttle.
  • There are no parachutes aboard a KC-135; it’s actually safer to go down with the bird!
  • The KC-135s were built from 1957-1965 and are expected to run for another 40-50 years!
  • A KC-135 is essentially the same frame as a Boeing 707.
  • The KC-135 can reach speeds of 600 mph and can travel about 5,000 miles.
  • With 16 KC-135s, the 434th ARW at Grissom is the largest air refueling wing in the Air Force Reserves.
  • The 434th ARW averages six refueling missions daily, so don’t be surprised if you don’t see many KC-135s on the ground at base.
  • Grissom puts about $100 million annually into the local economy, which is huge for a rural area of Indiana!
  • Grissom has a major global impact, too. In addition to providing aerial refueling to the nation’s defense aircraft, reservists from Grissom are currently deployed around the world, including Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • Grissom was an Air Force Base until 1994 when a realignment changed it to a Reserve base, but it is still alive and well!
  • The base, originally Bunker Hill Naval Air Station, has been around since WWII.

Roll call:

MobileMe Gallery (all photos and videos): http://gallery.me.com/cassiedull#100051
Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cassdull/sets/72157624534240239
Facebook Album: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2103083&id=21104982
Facebook Video: http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=575391813242
YouTube Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cyOLN9mhipI

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