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News > Maintenance in chief: Looking after Air Force One
Maintenance in chief: Looking after Air Force One

Posted 3/2/2012   Updated 3/2/2012 Email story   Print story


by Mike W. Ray
Staff Writer

3/2/2012 - TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla.  -- Maintenance of the VC-25A -- commonly known as "Air Force One" -- is quietly managed by a small contingent of professionals housed in the Contractor Logistics Support Sustainment Division in the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center at Tinker AFB.

The CLS team's duties make it a key element in providing safe and reliable transportation of the President of the United States.

"Most people never think of Tinker AFB as the home for Air Force One maintenance management," said Randy DeWitt, section chief of the Presidential Aircraft Sustainment Section in the OC-ALC. "But that's OK. We're not in it for the recognition. We love working on this aircraft and for those who travel on it."

The team is comprised of program managers, equipment specialists, engineers, contracting officers, and a flight manual manager. They execute "myriad requirements necessary to keep the aircraft capable of meeting 100 percent of its mission requirements," Mr. DeWitt said.

From support equipment to spare parts, upgrades to modifications, carpet to paint, avionics to communications, the team is responsible for all aspects of the aircraft - including daily on-site management while the aircraft undergoes depot and field maintenance, Mr. DeWitt related.

The team also is responsible for supplying and maintaining the aircraft support equipment and aircraft spare parts at various locations, including the Presidential Airlift Group at Joint Base Andrews, Md.

Recently the team supervised an extensive, 13½-month renovation of Aircraft 92-9000, one of two "Air Force One" jet airplanes, just in time for the presidential election year.

Aircraft 92-9000 spent 417 days at Boeing's maintenance facility in Wichita, Kan., where the aircraft received FAA airworthiness inspections, refurbishment, modifications and upgrades, Mr. DeWitt reported.

One significant modification was installation of Airborne Information Management Systems (AIMS) hardware and software. AIMS modernized the on-board communication system to provide the President with airborne capability that keeps pace with today's communication requirements.

AIMS replaced outdated analog systems, providing fixed bandwidth switching and integrated secure/non-secure video teleconferencing, and installed seamless passenger information interfaces throughout the aircraft. The modification -- led by L3 Communications and supported by Boeing - required extensive interior disassembly to thread an estimated 30 miles of wiring throughout the plane.

The program office worked hand-in-hand daily with the entire team to ensure the aircraft met all expectations upon delivery, Mr. DeWitt said. "Our job is to meet or exceed those expectations," he added. "There's pressure to succeed in everything we do."

"It took the entire team working in harmony to ensure we were successful, and it paid off," said Donna White, AIMS modification manager in the OC-ALC/GK. "The aircraft has more capability and now better-supports the Presidential mission."

The new and upgraded capabilities are "just a small part of providing the President with the necessary tools required to accomplish the job while in the air and abroad," Mr. DeWitt said. AIMS is a significant part of that capability.

Although the Presidential Aircraft Section in the OC-ALC is responsible for managing the maintenance on presidential aircraft, the work is performed elsewhere. For VC-25, the depot work is performed at Boeing-IDS in Wichita, Kan., and unscheduled maintenance "can occur anywhere in the world," Mr. DeWitt said.

"Our responsibility is to supervise the work anywhere it takes place," he said. For example, the CLS team currently is supervising some work that's being done at Joint Base Andrews. "Needless to say, we spend much of our time TDY supervising contract work on location and by 'phone," Mr. DeWitt said.

The Contractor Logistics Support organization specializes in managing contract maintenance and support for militarized commercial-derivative aircraft around the world. CLS is home to 25 different aircraft mission design series, serves 19 different commands, supports 500 aircraft, and manages more than $14 billion in contracts.

Their sustainment portfolio includes aircraft such as the E-4, KC-10, AF Academy aircraft, C-12, C-20, C-21, C-26, C-27, C-32, C-40, E-9, and four foreign military sales customers. Their customers range from cadets at the Air Force Academy to the President of the United States.

In addition to the Air Force customers, the CLS Sustainment Division supports the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, National Guard, Reserves, DIA, DSCA, and NASA, with missions such as air-refueling, DV/VIP travel, flying Pentagon, intelligence surveillance, drug interdiction, MedEvac, training, sea surveillance, and special duty.

"CLS is great," Mr. DeWitt said. "You can't get this experience and exposure to so many different platforms and diverse missions anywhere else."

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