A QUICK LOOK AT HOW KADENA’S AIRMEN CONDUCT KC-135 STRATOTANKER ENGINE POWER RUNS

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U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Weston Rutherford, 909th Aircraft Maintenance Unit aerospace propulsion apprentice, watches for discrepancies outside a KC-135R Stratotanker during an engine power run Feb. 16, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Rutherford looks for discrepancies such as leaks, smoke or damage during the power run.

“A power run is conducted to ensure that all four engines on the KC-135R are operating without issues at high capacities,” Staff Sgt. Nicholas Jaeger, 909th AMU

The KC-135R Stratotankers stationed on Kadena Air Base (AB) have a critical role in the U.S. Air Force’s (USAF) mission in the Pacific. In fact as explained by Senior Airman Omari Bernard, 18th Wing Public Affairs in his article Full Throttle, the aircraft provide global reach and air refueling support to Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and allied nation aircraft in the Pacific Theater.

With such a large role, the KC-135 needs constant maintenance to ensure its mission ready; that’s where the 909th Aircraft Maintenance Unit (AMU) comes into play. The 909th AMU’s maintainers work to ensure Kadena’s KC-135R fleet is mission ready.

Whether it’s completing engine replacements, testing diagnostics, or conducting engine power runs, the 909th AMU ensures Kadena’s Stratotankers are ready to lend support at a moment’s notice and ensure the fleet is mission ready.

As an aerospace propulsion journeyman for the 909th AMU, Airman 1st Class Bradley Romaker’s job is to maintain engines, ensuring safety of flight.

Romaker said when conducting basic maintenance on the KC-135R, like performing an engine power run, safety is important.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Nicholas Jaeger and Airman 1st Class Bradley Romaker, 909th Aircraft Maintenance Unit aerospace propulsion technicians, prepare to conduct an engine power run onboard a KC-135R Stratotanker Feb. 16, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Aerospace propulsion technicians maintain engines to ensure safety of flight.

“First and foremost all maintenance on the aircraft has to be conducted in a safe manner,” Romaker explained. “You basically inspect the inlets and exhausts for the jet engines; it’s a lengthy process that’s detailed in steps in our technical orders.”

Everyday maintenance for 909th AMU maintainers can vary from a five minute basic leak check to an hour long power run.

“A power run is conducted to ensure that all four engines on the KC-135R are operating without issues at high capacities,” said Staff Sgt. Nicholas Jaeger, 909th AMU aerospace propulsion craftsman.

“Before the aircraft can be sent in for maintenance we make sure that the aircraft has little to no issues, so that the receiving shop has less work to do on the aircraft during the upgrade.”

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Nicholas Jaeger, 909th Aircraft Maintenance Unit aerospace propulsion craftsman, rests his hand on the throttle while performing a power run for a KC-135R Stratotanker Feb. 16, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Jaeger pushes the engines to 80 percent power to test the aircrafts systems at high power output.

In order to fix problems or issues discovered during flight by aircrew, maintainers attempt to recreate the same discrepancies or issues on the ground to assess and fix the problem.

“It may not happen because we are conducting these tests on the ground,” Jaeger said. “But we try our best to duplicate the discrepancy on the ground to ensure the safety of our aircrews.”

With the safety of flight in mind, 909th AMU maintainers work night and day to ensure that the KC-135R is ready at a moment’s notice.

“Any time there is an aircraft flying you have to ensure that it is safe,” Jaeger said. “The aircraft we support frequently fly out people on aeromedical evacuation missions, so if we don’t have an aircraft that’s safe for people to fly in, then there could be potential deaths or injuries, so it’s really important that the job is done safely and properly.”

The flight instrument panel fluctuates during a KC-135R Stratotanker engine power run Feb. 16, 2017, at Kadena Air Force Base, Japan. The 909th Aircraft Maintenance Unit’s aerospace propulsion technicians conduct engine power runs to test how the KC-135’s systems handle at higher engine levels.

Photo credit: Senior Airman Omari Bernard / U.S. Air Force