Repair and reclamation mechanics with the 157th Maintenance Group completed the first full replacement of a flight control surface on a KC-46 Oct. 5, 2023 at Pease Air National Guard Base.
The Airmen replaced the left outboard elevator. This surface on the tail controls the angle of the nose, or pitch, of the aircraft causing it to climb or dive during flight.
“This is an enormous milestone,” said Col. Christine Banks, the commander of the 157th Maintenance Group. “This is the first time a flight control surface has operationally been installed in the KC-46.”
Complete removal and installation took the team two full days and one week of preparation prior.
“We have never done anything of this caliber,” said Tech. Sgt. William Rand, a repair and reclamation technician with the 157th Maintenance Group. “With R&R you learn the very basics in tech school, but the rest is on the job training. You might not ever see this kind of maintenance happen in someone’s career.”
In addition to completing an extensive and unique maintenance request, the Airmen pioneered the path to installation from supply to outfitting the new elevator.
The damage occurred during a weather-related event at Pease Air National Guard Base. The Airmen removed both the inboard and outboard elevator with a crane to ensure the replacement surface could be reinstalled safely.
“There are a lot of moving parts,” said Master Sgt. Adam Hart, R&R lead with the 157th Maintenance Group. “It’s different than our normal day-to-day because the scale is bigger, and it requires rigging of flight controls that don’t normally get replaced.”
“We are also working through everything for the first time,” he added. “It’s new to everyone. We have to be extra cognizant of the different parts and everyone’s roles.”
Rand explained the job required an extreme level of focus as he pointed out the size of the jet.
“A KC-46 elevator is about the size of a wing on the F-16,” he said. “You have to get everything exactly right. There are very serious and dangerous implications for anything less than perfect.”
Before the KC-46 can fly in operational missions again, a team of test pilots from Tinker Air Force Base are required to certify the aircraft is safe and airworthy.
“Our maintainers handled this mission safely and efficiently,” said Banks. “They were methodical and deliberate and they took time to ensure discrepancies with the technical data we follow were noted for correction for future maintainers doing this task.”
“I’m incredibly proud of their diligence through the whole process,” she said. “They demonstrated the capabilities our future Airmen have to offer.”