Blood, Sweat, and Tears Sewn into History

  • Published
  • By SSgt. Mary KcKnight
  • 916th ARW Public Affairs
Although the KC-135 Stratotanker fleet is gone from the 916th , the spirit of the aircraft will forever be present in the engine covers created by four members of the 916th Maintenance Squadron aircraft survival equipment unit.

For almost 20 years, the covers protected the four engines on the aircraft from debris, flying objects, birds and anything else that could harm the engine while the aircraft was on the ground. Moreover, unlike some covers, which can be ordered and delivered by a manufacturer, unit members personally made these covers.

“A lot of people think engine covers are manufactured and actually come from a company,” said Leslie C. Capers, retired master sergeant from the 916 MXS. “But as part of our career field, all survival equipment specialists must know how to sew, and all engine covers are actually made by a shop on base.”

The first set was created by now retired Master Sgt. Chris Rajski and included the “Wright Flyer” logo. That set was and was used as showcase covers, while others were for daily use.

“The logo is a symbol of the first flight that took place in North Carolina by the Wright brothers,” said Senior Master Sgt. Ian D. Gardner, 916th Air Refueling Wing Education and Training Superintendent Gardner.

Using stencil board, Rajski made templates of the logo, incorporating the green and yellow of the 77th Air Refueling Squadron, a subordinate unit under the 916th. The logo template provided a little ease for the arduous task.

“Each aircraft had different sizes and dimensions, so we had to customize the covers for each aircraft.” said Master Sgt. Timothy Baylock, 916th MXS Aircraft Flight Equipment technician.

Despite the intricate details of the engine covers, these members were able to meet the needs of the wing.

“Our day-to-day work took precedence over the engine covers, so it took upward of two years to get all four engine covers for each of the 16 KC-135s in our fleet,” said Gardner. “That’s 64 giant-engine covers that we had sewn.”

“The planes and the covers will be missed,” said Gardner. “I am eternally grateful for master sergeants Rajski, Baylock and Capers for taking me under their wings and teaching me all of their tricks and tactics. I am also grateful to Colonel Sheets and Chief Mote for allowing me to request the four remaining engine covers be placed strategically throughout the wing.”

“Knowing that you did something special. Knowing that you are a part of history now that the KC-135s are no longer at Seymour Johnson, to have that memory is something that could never be taken away from you,” said Capers.