914th ARW ISO Dock Maintenance

  • Published
  • By Mr. Peter Borys
  • 914th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

For over 60 years the KC-135 has been the core aerial refueling capability for U.S. operations around the world.  It’s been flying before Alaska and Hawaii became states and continues now during the COVID Pandemic.

“Every day we make history keeping these aircraft in the air because of the men and women of the 914th Maintenance Group,” said Chief Master Sgt. Patrick Martin, 914th Maintenance Squadron superintendent, proudly.

Part of what keeps the KC-135R at Niagara flying safely is the ISO Dock Inspection. ISO Dock coming from the word isocronical which is a calendar inspection, but in the case of a KC-135 it is a calendar plus flying hour’s inspection. Every 24-months the aircraft gets a complete top to bottom inspection and repairs are made if required.

Staff Sgt. Joshua Carter, 914th Maintenance Squadron, ISO Dock inspector, explained the process.

“It takes a team of 25-35 maintainers, which includes 11 support sections such as engine, hydraulics, electrical, sheet metal, communications, navigation, etc. and seven specialty career fields  with 1,631 inspect-able items, 35-45 days to complete the aircraft inspection,” said Carter.

He added, “This is not the only inspection for the aircraft.  There’s through flights, pre-flights, a 12-month inspection, 24-month inspection and there’s a variety of inspections for all sorts of the specialty career fields that work on this aircraft, but this is the big one, the 24-month or phase inspection.”

Carter explained the types of discrepancies they may find and their priorities.

“For simplicity, the aircraft has a couple of different levels that we use on aircraft forms. Some things might be like; the coffee pot is not working on the aircraft, which is something that doesn’t affect the safety and flight.” He also added, “There are some things that are middle ground like, we need to pay attention to this, but it still doesn’t affect the flight. Then we have other things that we call red X’s. Those affect the flight and we want to get those fixed and fixed right so we can get it back out to the flight line so the flight line guys can maintain the aircraft.”

We will rip this airplane apart and inspect it, mostly for corrosion which is a big thing we are finding on this aircraft after 60 years of service,” said Chief Martin. “This is something that is done fleet wide with the KC-135s.

Lt. Col. Albert Knapp, 914th Maintenance Group commander, boasted that his ISO dock team has been able to find some of the toughest problems these planes encounter.

“They find corrosion, cracks and dents, bad control surface cables, twisted tubing, faulty wiring, and corroded trunnions (cylindrical protrusion used as a mounting or pivoting point). They find and fix things others have overlooked and haven’t fixed – after we have worked on them, I am confident that our pilots are flying the best maintained fleet in the force – bar none.”

The KC-135R models are expected to continue service until 2040. It is not known currently whether Niagara will continue this mission or assigned a newer airframe such as the Boeing KC-46 Pegasus aerial refueling aircraft, but the ISO inspection is vital to keep the 135s flying safely until then.