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NEWS | Oct. 28, 2015

Extreme makeover: C-17 edition

By Airman 1st Class Thomas T. Charlton 628th Air Base Wing/Public Affairs

They are seen flying in the sky all the time. Providing aid, support, supplies and whatever else the people of the world might need. A cargo plane getting the job done.

However, travelling around the world, doing all that it does, going at it for so long creates wear and tear on the aircraft. These logistic giants need to be maintained to ensure mission-readiness at a moment's notice.

At Joint Base Charleston - Air Base, S.C., C-17 Globemaster IIIs needing maintenance because of corrosion and exposure are tended to by 437th Maintenance Squadron aircraft structural maintainers.

Tech. Sgt. James Hurst, 437th MXS aircraft structural maintenance section chief, said "This is our first time being fully operational and repainting an aircraft since September, 2013. What happened was our exhaust fan wells cracked and they needed to be replaced because of the lack of air flow for our Airmen. On top of that, our lights were all going out as well."

While not having the ability to repaint the aircraft, the 437th MXS personnel still provided other aircraft maintenance support to the squadrons based in Charleston.

"The aircraft may be more susceptible to corrosion, but we ensured there wasn't anything too major," Hurst said.

Hurst said "After a certain level of corrosion, it comes to a point where we send our aircraft to a place called 'the Depot' where the entire aircraft is redone. This only happens every 5-10 years for the aircraft and they are down months at a time."

When the repairs to the aircraft painting facility in Building 515 were complete the 437th MXS immediately went back to work.

"On average, it takes about 2 weeks to do the entire process," Hurst said, "The process itself consists of getting the aircraft washed, pre-masked, sanded and sealed for dust prevention. A second washing removes contaminates from the sanding. Then we do the painting, let aircraft sit for about twenty four hours, re-stencil the decals on the aircraft and, finally, de-mask the aircraft."

For the process to get going, they need bodies to do it.

Hurst said, "We prefer to have a minimum of four people per shift but that doesn't always happen what with our other responsibilities and twenty four- seven operational schedule."

"Now that we are up and running, we should handle an average of two aircraft per month," said Hurst.

Getting this operation up and running was no small feat.

Hurst said, "All in all, to get back operational, this entire process was a $1.1 million project. Now we are good to go and we are ready to accomplish our mission."