TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --
The Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex
works on a fair share of C-130 aircraft, but seldom gets to work on one
belonging to the Navy Blue Angels.
“Fat Albert,” a tactical transport aircraft
flown by an all-Marine crew, was at Tinker being stripped of its signature
Following an air show in Alaska, severe
corrosion was detected on the aircraft, which required non-routine maintenance
repairs. 1st Lt. Willie Larkins, Maintenance Operations Officer in the 556th
Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, said the major corrosion was the reason the
C-130 aircraft was pulled and brought to Tinker.
David Painter, 566th Aircraft Maintenance
Squadron, said there has not been a Blue Angels plane at Tinker in about four
“Fat Albert is a very identifiable aircraft
and does a lot of special things, so having it come to Tinker is really kind of
a treat. This is a good time to let the world know that when they need an
aircraft painted or de-painted, [Tinker] is the premier spot to go to. They
want the best of the best working on these birds, so having [Fat Albert]
brought to Tinker makes us feel privileged.” Mr. Painter said.
Fat Albert will not undergo full programmed
depot maintenance at Tinker, but the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex was
chosen as the pre-PDM site because of its exceptional response time.
A five-day process began late Aug. 12, once
the aircraft was officially in the Air Force’s possession. The Navy is
responsible for unloading equipment from the plane and palletizing it, as it
arrived fully loaded with tool boxes and gear. The aircraft remained in the
Navy’s possession until the procedural steps had been completed, Cathy Grizzle,
master scheduler for E-3s in the 566th AMXS, explained. Once the Air Force took
over, the C-130 was de-fueled. Fat
Albert spent five days in the hangar, and maintainers conducted a full
stripping of the paint. Then, the plane was re-fueled and prepared for
Once Tinker completed their portion of the
work, the Blue Angels were contacted to retrieve the aircraft. At the same time
Tinker contacted Hill Air Force Base, Utah, to coordinate movement to the next
maintenance phase, said Ms. Grizzle. The Blue Angels operate on a strict and
very structured schedule, so it is easier for schedulers to work with the Navy
to ensure aircraft availability fits their needs. The Blue Angels gave Tinker about 30 days in
total, but Mr. Painter said all-in-all, it will only take about 15 days.
Fat Albert will undergo a full programmed
depot maintenance at Hill AFB. This special aircraft was brought to Tinker
because the OC-ALC can provide a service detail very unique to other Air Force
“Our engineers developed a peroxide
stripper,” Mr. Painter explained, “which has proven to be a much more efficient
form of de-painting.”
This makes Tinker stand out among the rest.
Hill Air Force Base is moving forward with laser stripper, Mr. Painter said,
but they do not have the full capabilities at this point.
Tinker’s ability to expedite the process
through an environmental stripping agent gives them an edge over other bases
across the country. Using an environmental agent versus a non-environmental
agent has shaved about three days off the process, Lieutenant Larkins
clarified, making five days the standard timeline for de-painting at the
The highlighted response time is not solely
due to the unique environmental stripping capabilities at Tinker. Master
schedulers have a key role in conducting and ensuring efficiency. Ms. Grizzle
explained that there were approximately 24 hours from the initial point of
contact and getting everyone and everything properly coordinated. The Blue
Angels contacted Ms. Grizzle, who then coordinates with the OC-ALC Paint
Facility and Hill Air Force Base. Slots within the paint facility must be
available in order to prepare an itinerary or timeline to the estimated
completion date. Its next location must also be contacted to confirm a
retrieval and arrival date. Executing the schedules on time is critical, Ms.
Grizzle said, and that gave Tinker the capacity to take action swiftly.
Lieutenant Larkins said maintainers are very
enthusiastic about working on this aircraft.
“It’s not every day we get to do this,” he
said. “This has all the bells and whistles.”
Typical C-130s that are brought in are
workload aircraft with a standard gray paint job. Having a specialty bird,
especially a Navy aircraft, brought to Tinker is rather noteworthy.
In the meantime, the Blue Angels will fly a
backup C-130 aircraft, “Ernie,” until the PDM is finished.
Fat Albert usually flies 100,000 miles each
season (mid-March until mid-November) and carries 45 maintenance and support
personnel, in addition to any specialized equipment required for the upcoming
air shows. Fat Albert will be forced to miss the rest of the season.
“We really appreciate the hard work and
dedication of the personnel at Tinker AFB,” said Fat Albert pilot Capt. Katie
“Many people forget that the Fat Albert team
is more than just the pilots and the aircrew. It takes multiple maintenance
facilities and maintainers from across the services to keep her running. We
have the honor of representing these hard working servicemen and women.”