Tag Archives: kc-135

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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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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