By Air Force Master Sgt. Matt Hecht, New Jersey Air National Guard
/ Published January 17, 2018
Aircraft mechanics assigned to the 108th Wing here are no strangers to working outdoors in finger-numbing cold or sweltering heat.
One of them is Air Force Tech. Sgt. Raymond DeMarco, a crew chief who is troubleshooting some lights that aren’t working on the refueling boom of a KC-135R Stratotanker.
“We’ve changed out some light bulbs, but these still aren’t working,” said DeMarco, gesturing to the boom that extends from the tail of the aircraft.
The boom is the device that unloads fuel to trailing fighters, bombers, and cargo planes.
Electric Shop Assistance
“If the lights aren’t working, it might be something inside, so we have someone from the electric shop coming out,” DeMarco explained.
Within minutes, a blue Air Force pickup truck comes by, and Staff Sgt. Garion Reddick hops out.
After consulting with the crew chiefs, Reddick climbs onto the Stratotanker to diagnose the problem with the lighting system.
“I’m just making sure voltage is coming through the fuses here to the components. If it is, the lights should be working,” Reddick said. “If I can find where the voltage stops, I can figure out what component is bad.”
Outside the aircraft, DeMarco, along with fellow crew chief Staff Sgt. Robert Cento, make finals checks before the aircrew shows up for the first training flight of the day.
The crew chiefs quip that the KC-135R is like working on a classic hot rod.
‘Making it Work Again’
“These 1960’s aircraft are like a project car you’re working on, and if you’re a dedicated crew chief like some of us are, you’re working on the same aircraft all the time,” DeMarco said. “The most fun part is taking something that’s broken and making it work again.”
Once the crew chiefs wrapup aircraft checks, Reddick, the aircraft electrician, emerged with a diagnosis of the problem.
“There’s one component that went bad; it’s an easy fix, maybe thirty minutes,” he said.
Reddick climbed back into his truck to get more parts, and the crew chiefs reflected on the toughest part of their jobs.
“I think the toughest thing about maintenance is the weather,” Cento said. “We’re out here in the heat, the cold, rain, snow. To me, it’s the hardest thing we do.”
DeMarco agreed that the flightline is a tough place to work.
“The weather can really get you,” DeMarco added. “Weather that people couldn’t even imagine being out in, and we’re here. Some of the worst is when it’s a 100-plus degrees, and you’re on top of the plane when the sun is hitting it. It’s intense up there.”
DeMarco grabs an orange safety vest and lights, and marshals the plane off the flightline to its takeoff position where the Stratotanker hurtles into the sky, the crew chiefs’ first mission of the day complete.