Reservist structural technicians save Air Force more than $1M

  • Published
  • By Lauren Kelly
  • 507th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. – Reservists with the 507th Maintenance Squadron repaired a KC-135 Stratotanker engine cowling in-house that sustained damage by a bird strike Sept. 21, ultimately saving the Air Force more than $1 million.

Structures section chief, Master Sgt. Harold Fulghum, along with Senior Airman Acacia Shelton, an aircraft structural technician, devoted 192 hours of labor over three weeks to fabricate the part in-house.

Fulghum described the lengthy fabrication process, which included removing and reinstalling 600 rivets and fasteners. 

“We originally started off just replacing one segment, but later found another section that needed further repair,” said Fulghum. “This required the entire inlet lip to be removed so we could replace the two segments.”

Fulghum’s experience spans 22 years in the 507th MXS structures shop, and Shelton has served for 3 years.

In September, the safety office initially categorized the incident as a Class B mishap, which means repairs would be in the range $500,000 and $2 million. The replacement part was originally estimated to cost $1.2 million.

“When we got done with it, the total repair was about $25,000 to replace both segments,” Fulghum said. “Our repair drove the mishap from a Class B to a Class D mishap, which is a range of $20,000 to $60,000 in repair costs.”

In addition to saving taxpayer’s dollars, the repairs were completed ahead of schedule and the engine has been reinstalled and is fully operational, according to 507th Maintenance Group commander, Lt. Col. Karwin Weaver.
“The amount of initiative our Airmen have is impressive,” said Weaver. “They were able to dig in, do the research and save the Air Force a significant amount of money.”

According to the Air Force Safety center, 69,471 U.S. Air Force wildlife strikes were reported between 1995-2011 with an associated cost of nearly $478 million including eight destroyed aircraft and 25 human fatalities.