Air Force, Navy joint operation repairs $2.8 million aircraft tail

by Senior Airman Peter Reft, 18th Wing Public Affairs
Kadena Air Base

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan  -- U.S. Air Force 718th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Airmen and U.S. Navy Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 3 Seabees performed a complex rudder replacement on a KC-135 Stratotanker after inspection teams detected corrosion on the aircraft.

The operation, known as a fin fold, required coordinated teamwork from Airmen and Seabees to replace a worn down rudder by utilizing a 40-ton crane to separate a tail section from the aircraft.

"Inspection teams found corrosion areas on the rudder," said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Gabriel Stone, 18th Equipment Maintenance Squadron repair and reclamation section chief. "The biggest challenge of this project is the actual fin fold, where we remove a section of the aircraft worth approximately 2.8 million dollars."

The 40-ton crane enabled the 18th EMS Airmen to safely fold down the tail section, which stood more than 40 feet high.

"The Navy owns and operates the necessary crane to safely fold the fin so we can remove the rudder," said U.S. Air Force Captain Cory Eubanks, 718th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron maintenance operations officer.

"The Seabees are a key aspect of this and without them we cannot get this job done," he added

Due to the value and size of the air control surface on the KC-135, Navy Seabees coordinated the use of their Link Belt 40-ton crane.

"Since we're dealing with something that costs over one million dollars, we categorize this as a critical lift which requires us to use larger weight handling equipment," said U.S. Navy Equipment Operator 1st Class Kyle Louiselle, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 3 crane supervisor.

The fin fold operation required careful planning and practice before repair work could start.

"We met here last Thursday to do a dry run and positioned the cranes and planned out where each person needed to be, and we also had to disconnect all the control cables that run from the fuselage all the way to the top of the tail," said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Adam Bowers, 18th EMS repair and reclamation team lead.

Airmen and Seabees worked efficiently together to complete the fin fold operation.

"The Seabees have been easy and straightforward to work with and my Airmen were excited to work on this large project and get training," Bowers added.

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