By Jeanne Grimes, 72nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs
/ Published November 01, 2004
TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. (AFPN) -- Aircraft leaving the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center here make one final stop to complete the cycle of programmed depot maintenance.
That stop is the paint hangar. What comes in are aircraft fresh from their test flights. What rolls out are planes freshly primed, painted and stenciled.
The provisional 76th Maintenance Wing employs 274 workers in two paint hangars. Each shift has about 85 painters on the floor, said Joe Harkins, acting deputy chief of the paint unit.
The painting process starts with sealing seams and chemically treating the aircraft, he said.
The treatment etches the metal skin so it will hold the paint and also includes a corrosion-preventive coating.
Corrosion typically occurs in areas that trap moisture and are exposed to acids or strong alkalis, Mr. Harkins said.
“If you’re going to fly an airplane 40 years, you’ve got to keep the corrosion down,” he said.
The current primer is “a lot better” than those used in the past, Mr. Harkins said.
A crew can primer a KC-135 Stratotanker in about 45 minutes, and just a few hours later, the aircraft is ready for paint.
The painters use a “high-solids” urethane paint, which means much of the solvents have been removed, leaving a heavier-bodied paint that is harder to apply, Mr. Harkins said.
“The solvents produce a chemical reaction, and when you remove the solvents, it slows the chemical reaction, [and] the paint is slower to dry,” Mr. Harkins said.
Still, a crew takes about three hours to give a KC-135 two coats -- about 120 gallons -- of paint.
The KC-135, B-52 Stratofortress and B-1 Lancer each receive one coat of primer and two coats of paint, which adds 420 to 500 pounds to the aircraft, Mr. Harkins said.