Maintenance backshop takes center stage

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Chuck Marsh
  • 100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
It is a little known fact that if you connected the KC-135R Stratotanker's nearly 5,000 electrical wires end to end, the result would stretch to more than 14.5 miles in length.

Combine those numbers with the amount of electronics on the aircraft, its generator, battery, pressurization equipment, liquid oxygen and nitrogen and gaseous oxygen and nitrogen, and it is easy to see there are quite a few pieces of equipment dealing with the electronics and environmental aspects of this aircraft.

Now, take all the above mentioned equipment from just one aircraft and multiply it by the number of KC-135s assigned to the base.

Then, add the statistics for the base's MH-53 Pave Lows, C-130 Hercules and any transient aircraft to the Mildenhall numbers, and you have more than 100,000 wires spanning more than 400 miles and nearly 100 aircraft batteries the nine members of the 100th Maintenance Squadron's aircraft electrical and environmental systems shop here are responsible for maintaining.

"Basically we perform the scheduled maintenance necessary to keep an aircraft flying," said Tech. Sgt. William McGregor, aircraft electrical and environmental systems shop chief.

"To do that, we work with every aircraft agency on base, to include the special operations group, Air Mobility Command, wing maintenance, cryogenics and we also support transient aircraft.

"We're considered a backshop, but we do a lot of on-equipment maintenance," said McGregor.

A backshop maintenance crew deals with parts once they have been removed from aircraft to brought back to a shop to repair.

On the other end, flightline duties consist of either fixing an aircraft on the ramp or working on it to take parts off and be brought to the backshop.

"With the amount of work we do and the different types of airframes we support, this shop is one of the most diverse E & E shops in the Air Force," said McGregor.

Not only is their mission diverse, encompassing many tasks, it is also a mission that can help sustain the lives of an aircrew or leave them gasping during high-altitude flights.

"When an aircraft depressurizes, the first thing the aircrew go to is the liquid oxygen," said Tech. Sgt. Richard Allen, assistant shop chief. "So, it's essential for us to make sure the system is working properly to give (the aircrew) the chance to get to a safe altitude where they can breath without masks."

The shop uses an oxygen regulator test to make sure the system is putting out the proper amounts of oxygen. The system has to work and keep crews breathing until they can descend to roughly 10,000 feet, where there is enough oxygen in the air for them to breathe safely.

With the amount of information each maintainer must know, it is easy to see why their technical training school is nearly six-and-a-half months long and followed up by another three-and-a-half weeks at a field training detachment to learn their base-specific aircraft.

Even after spending that amount of time in school, members are constantly in on-the-job training no matter what their skill level, helping to ensure the best customer service.

There is a sense of accomplishment when jobs are done, Allen said.

"The satisfaction of the job comes when you've completed a task," he said. "You start by taking apart a spotlight, fix it, then put it back together and back on the airframe. It's easy for us to see how we directly affect the mission, where even an item as small as a Pave Low's spotlight can keep the helicopter grounded."