Air Force Featured Stories

Maintaining aircraft integrity one coat at a time

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jessica Hines
  • 31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Base aircraft are now serviced in-house for a quarter of the cost at the new state-of-the-art Corrosion Control Facility here.

Up until last year, all F-16 Fighting Falcons on Aviano AB were sent to either Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, or a Belgian based aerospace company for repainting, costing the Air Force nearly $108,000 each time.

With a new facility and improved capabilities, corrosion control technicians are able polish, paint and restore aging aircraft parts across the base. The new paint jobs and polished exteriors are not for show, but rather, are an integral part of the Air Force's overall mission, protecting the structural integrity and longevity of Aviano AB's fleet of fighter aircraft.

"If we didn't do our job, the aircraft and the mission definitely wouldn't succeed. It would have dire consequences on the aircraft's capability to fly and get off the ground," said Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Jimenez, the 31st Maintenance Squadron NCO in charge of corrosion.

According to Master Sgt. Jeremy Fisk, 31st MXS aircraft maintenance section chief, the Department of Defense spends nearly $5 billion annually on corrosion control to maintain aircraft and equipment around the world.

Various environmental factors such as wind, rain and sunlight, pose little threat to aircraft alone, but when accompanied by time, chemicals and everyday usage, the metal structure becomes subject to deterioration, causing major problems down the road, Jimenez said.

"Paint is helping extend the lifespan of our aircrafts and is what keeps the Air Force moving," Jimenez said.

The corrosion control unit focuses on repainting and preventing the deterioration of metal on aircraft and aircraft equipment through the use of special polyurethane paint that helps protect metal from the elements.

"We also paint the weapon rails that go on the aircraft, external fuel tanks, wheels, brakes and landing gear, in addition to everything that is used to power the aircraft from aerospace ground equipment," Jimenez said.

With the new facility, which boasts a new sanding bay, vacuum systems and air filtration, the Air Force is able to save time and money on corrosion, but that's not the only way the facility is helping Aviano AB.

"The ventilation system protects not only the people working inside from the chemicals and paint, but all the air is filtered through the back and goes through three stages of filtration to include the carbon filter at the end, which scrubs all volatile ozone depleting chemicals and makes the air cleaner before it goes outside," Fisk said.

From start to finish, a single aircraft takes eight days to repaint, beginning with a wash and degreasing in the outdoor bay. The jet is then moved inside where it is prepped and sanded down and stripped of all paint and decals. It's moved once more, where it is wiped down and raised up on levers to receive three coats of paint: primer, color and topcoat.

"Every base needs to have some way to prevent corrosion, from the largest piece of equipment to the smallest," Fisk said. "Before, we were limited to 6 square feet of room, so obviously we were very restricted. This new facility allows us to perform a complete repaint of the aircraft and get it back in the air in a fraction of the time."