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Team hunts problems down before having chance to fester

FAIRCHILD AFB, Wash. - It’s like an autopsy.

After delicately removing the skin, they peer inside the body and tenderly inspect the insides. Some fluids may spill out, but it’s quickly cleaned up for safety and health reasons.

No one wants to come in contact with the fluid in fear of coming down with an illness.

Once inside, they work their way through each system. If they miss a single area, lives could be lost.

If they find anything seriously wrong with a specific area, they have specialists working with them to diagnose and correct it as quickly as possible.

With the loving care every physician provides to his patients, the men and women of the 92nd Maintenance Squadron work day and night to care for their KC-135’s.

A total of nine shops team up to maintain the systems of the bird.

During the inspection, more than 20 crew chiefs are able to inspect the KC-135 and return it to the air better than when they received it.

Each aircraft is assigned a visit with the PE inspection team based on a complex series of factors, including flight hours, schedule and other issues.

“When an aircraft enters this hanger, it doesn’t get one in-depth inspection, but many inspections tailored specifically to the aircraft,” said Staff Sergeant John Brown, a PE inspection crew chief in the 92nd MXS. “They are very in-depth inspections.”

To keep things organized, the crew chiefs have books of check listed items they inspect, 103 in all, each with approximately 15 separate items to inspect. Basically, the books, or work cards, are divvied out evenly between the 20 crew chiefs working the jet during the beginning of the inspection.

We like to start the newer Airmen out on areas that are more accessible and less complicated to inspect, said Sergeant Brown. As the Airmen progresses through their training, they work their way through the more complicated systems.

At all times there is a supervisor on duty watching over the entire process and helping out when needed.

The textbook answer to the question “How long does it take to inspect the aircraft?” is six days. Usually the maintenance team finishes in five.

“Some people go to work at a job, but our team puts their heart, soul and sometimes blood into this aircraft,” said Staff Sgt. Mike Matusik, another crew chief from the 92nd MXS.

In medical terms, the crew chiefs are like family practitioners while the back shops are your specialists.

The crew chiefs work on the entire aircraft and keep it going, but when something serious happens or needs in-depth technical inspection they call in the specialists to assist them.

“For all the hard work our team puts in, we couldn’t do it without the support of the back shops,” said Sergeant Matusik.

The entire team is housed under the 92nd Maintenance Squadron and the Air Force’s mission hinges on their expertise.

Once all of the items are inspected, on all of the work cards; all of the back shops finish with all of their maintenance and inspections; and after all of the supervisors’ double check everything, the aircraft can finally go to the “backline.”

“If it comes in working, it needs to leave working,” said Sergeant Matusik. “The backline is the final checks we run, including electrical load tests, engine run-ups, and leak checks.”

Since the aircraft works after the inspection, the autopsy analogy may not be the closest comparison, but due to the depth of inspection these Airmen work, it’s the best one.

The maintainers inspect these aircraft with the same level of love, caring and professionalism as any doctor performing an autopsy, but their patients will continue to live and fight until 2040.

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