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Old faithful: Some of Tinker’s industrial machinery has been in service for more than 50 years

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- While it's common knowledge that Tinker's history dates back to the 1940s, few people know the history of its machinery. Several real property equipment pieces are original and still functioning. Within Bldg. 3001, there are active machines which have been on base since the 1950s.

The machines have not only stood the test of time, but continue to prove their worth.

"These machines are a good investment and taxpayers have gotten their money out of them," said Bill Howard, 76th Maintenance Support Squadron equipment specialist.

Two of the heating boilers situated at Bldg. 3001's central plant are original to the building, dating back to the days of the Douglas Aircraft Factory, circa the early 1940s. In 1941, after the War Department deemed Oklahoma City a prime location for a supply and maintenance depot, the Douglas Aircraft Factory began producing C-47 Skytrains and A-20 Havocs for World War II.

Four boilers at the Bldg. 208 plant and portions of the installation's steam distribution system are also original.

But, it is only the boiler's shell and steam distribution system that is original. The machinery has been updated through the years, said Rex Stanford, a mechanical engineer within 72nd Air Base Wing Civil Engineer Directorate.

"I don't know that this equipment was designed to run for 60 years, but it has," Mr. Stanford said, "and, since we can go in every 20 years or so and replace the necessary components, there's really no need to replace the shells."

Other real property equipment including the shells of air handlers are also original and date back to the early 1940s.

Within Bldg. 3001, the industrial equipment is labeled using an AF, Air Force, or OC, Oklahoma City, designation. The numbers are issued based on when the piece of machinery was added to the inventory. Within the OC inventory, to date, there are 19,674 items. Because the Air Force number system predates the OC inventory and some pieces have since switched inventories, its quantity is unknown.

The oldest piece of machinery at Bldg. 3001 is AF202128, a radial drill press manufactured by Morris Tool Co. Purchased for $11,609 by the Air Force in 1951, it was installed in 1966.

Still active because of its functionality, the radial drill press was last serviced Aug. 4. David Robinson, 76th MXSS Equipment Engineering chief, said the machine undergoes preventative maintenance every 180 days.

The radial drill press, which makes holes in metal, is used in the 552nd Commodities Maintenance Squadron's General Machine Shop, which does work for the KC-135 Stratotanker, B-52 Stratofortress, E-3 Sentry and B-1 Lancer.

"The equipment is tied to the workload, so since it's functional, it will stay," Mr. Robinson said. "If it's tied to the weapon system, it will come and go with the weapons system workload."

James Judd, General Machine Shop supervisor, said he recently came across an interesting discovery when one of his other machines was being repaired for an incessant knocking sound. During the repair of the Kearney and Trecker horizontal mill, mechanics replaced the bearings, which were from 1953. The mill had been purchased by the Air Force in 1961 and installed at Tinker in 1966.

Mr. Judd's shop will soon relocate to Bldg. 9001 and he said only one piece of equipment, a mill bought in 1975 and installed in 1977, will be left behind.

"It's worn out," he said. "You can't hardly find a machine like that anymore. It was a high quality piece of equipment."

Originally purchased for $35,000, Mr. Judd said a similar mill will cost $165,000 in today's dollars.

Even though newer equipment is computerized, lighter and offers a faster production rate, Mr. Judd said he prefers the aged models, which are used until they no longer function. He cited an incident in which a newer machine had run for less than two hours when its gears were stripped, something that wouldn't happen to an older machine.

"They just don't make them like they used to," he said.