by Senior Airman Meredith A.H. Thomas
916th Public Affairs Office
9/10/2012 - SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. -- Editor's note: We ran this story in early August, but now that the inspection has started we wanted to add a Video News Story to the piece to keep you updated on how our maintainers are performing. Unfortunately, they weren't able to make the 25-day goal this time, but they did significantly decrease the inspection time and are working to meet the goal before May 2013. Stay tuned for another Video News Story after they have completed this current inspection.
"Less is more" could just serve as the motto for the 916th Maintenance Group here in early August.
That's because maintainers will attempt to complete an in-depth isochronal inspection of a KC-135R Stratotanker, which typically takes around 55 days to complete, in just 25 days.
All of the 916th's jets are scrutinized during an inspection of this kind at regular intervals to ensure that each tanker's parts and systems are in top working condition.
If all goes to plan, one fated plane, tail number 57-1456, will roll into ISO dock on Aug. 9 where it will potentially make 916th Air Refueling Wing history.
"It's a huge undertaking," said 2nd Lt. Christine Harvey, the acting maintenance operations officer for the 916th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. "Col. Bunting (the 916th MXG commander) challenged us to meet this goal and we know it's going to take every member of the team to pull it off."
That's no surprise considering the maintainers will be scrambling to shave over two weeks off their fastest inspection time to date of 40 days.
According to Harvey, breaking the 25-day barrier is an accomplishment never before achieved at Seymour Johnson. It's an accomplishment that would launch the 916th's Airmen into the cosmos of superstar Stratotanker maintainers.
But it's going to be a bumpy ride.
Planning for the inspection began several months ago. Now, leadership and crews are looking at the job from various angles to find solutions to probable staffing issues and time and equipment restraints.
"We are hoping to gain a lot of ground by just thinking outside of the box," said Maj. Jason Weiser, commander of the 916th Maintenance Squadron.
He explains that leaning out the process will require creative scheduling around weekends to ensure that the jet does not sit without work being accomplished. The group will also strategically utilize a runway closure in mid August to get a sneak peek at what might need to be repaired.
"We further isolated processes that should not be included into the ISO and have made arrangements for these to be accomplished prior to the jet chocking into the ISO dock and starting the clock," Weiser said. "Specifically these events include a Wash & Lube as well as preventative fuel work."
Additionally, it's a fly-to-fly inspection, which means that the timer starts once the tanker's tires touch tarmac and it doesn't stop until the plane takes to the skies again for a functional check flight.
According to Col. Caroline Evernham, 916th Operations Group commander, these check flights require special flight crew members who are qualified to test and check the aircraft's systems after certain repairs are made. And, due to a deployment during this same timeframe, the wing has a very limited supply of these individuals.
"We will certainly do whatever we can to have a crew ready and available to fly the jet when maintenance turns it over," Evernham said. "We have superb maintainers here who take care of us on a daily basis. We never have any major discrepancies, minor problems here and there but that's to be expected. Overall they do a fantastic job and we want to help them achieve this goal."
The challenge represents the maintenance group's endeavor to streamline their inspection processes and seeks to directly impact the wing's mission of delivering global mobility power, on time, every time.
"When you look at the big picture, this initiative allows our maintainers to demonstrate their ability to produce fully mission capable aircraft in a fraction of the time," said Col. Laen August, 916th Air Refueling Wing commander. "The implications for this are huge.
The less time the plane spends with maintenance, the more time it can spend completing our mission of air-to-air refueling. It's an important endeavor that has the wing's full support."