TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --
The mission of an EC-135 once used by the 76th Aircraft Maintenance Group for aircraft battle damage repair is far from over.
In May, the aircraft was transferred to the Tinker Fire Department to be utilized as a training aid. However, after nearly 25 years in the sky and another 25 of training usage by the 76th AMXG, it was looking a little rough, so the 569th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Paint Shop gave it a face-lift.
“All we asked for was a simple paint job just to clean it up and it was 100% their idea to make something patriotic that stood out for the base as an icon for the airfield,” said Assistant Chief for Training Justin Dulworth. “They have gone above and beyond and it’s just incredible. It looks like a completely different plane.”
A bright, rippling American flag stands out against a fresh coat of gray and white paint with the words “Team Tinker” running along the side of the aircraft in black. In black, gold and red lettering near the tail of the plane, reads “Never Forget” with the number “343” underneath.
“The patriotism of these guys is just incredible,” said Capt. Terry Ford, Tinker Fire Department chief. “It’s a training aid for us, but it’s also a symbol of the 343 fallen firefighters from 9/11. It pays homage to those guys and salutes the patriotism of the guys over here that keep jets flying. It’s amazing what you can do when you allow people to exercise their crafts.”
Jose Martinez and Andy Flynn are the aircraft painters for the 569th AMXS who utilized their skills to bring this particular aircraft back to life. They said it took four 24-hour shifts to complete the painting process.
“It was the perfect opportunity to show our skills and once we heard it was for 9/11, we thought, ‘let’s do this,’” Martinez said. “You get to be part of something big and special.”
The process required Flynn and Martinez to lay the design outline down during their day shift with the swing shift filling in those areas.
Before joining team Tinker, Flynn painted semitrucks and custom motorcycle tanks and helmets, and Martinez did car painting and custom airbrushing work. They say the opportunity to re-paint the EC-135 gave them a chance to show their craftsmanship and artistic ability.
“At Tinker, you tend to blend into the background,” Flynn said. “There are so many people, it’s so overwhelming and it’s nice to at least step forward every once and awhile to show what you can do.”
Along with acting as a training aid for the Fire Department, Dulworth said the aircraft will be a showpiece for the airfield as well as a lasting example of the enduring teamwork of Team Tinker.
“This is not just a fire department project. There are so many people involved in this from the CDDAR group that put together the plan to get the aircraft moved out of its original parking space to the hundreds of people that were part of getting the aircraft moved out and the hundreds of people involved in the stripping, cleaning and painting process,” Dulworth said. “This was truly a Team Tinker effort.”