A Tail Tale: Shop stays busy repairing rudders

  • Published
  • By Mike W. Ray
  • Tinker Public Affairs
Each year, approximately one-fifth of the KC-135 Stratotankers still in service with the Air Mobility Command have their rudders repaired at Tinker.

According to Unit Chief Fernando Esquivel of the 551st Commodities Maintenance Squadron, his shop in Bldg. 9001 repairs about 80 rudders from KC-135 Stratotankers and E-3 Sentrys each year. Most of the rudders sent to the shop are from Stratotankers; only "a couple" of rudders from AWACS Sentrys are repaired each quarter, Mr. Esquivel said.

The shop's 39 employees produced 21 rudders during the most recent quarter, April-June, records reflect.

The rudder is a vertical part on the aircraft's tail that is part of the steering apparatus. According to The Boeing Co., the KC-135 rudder is 20 feet tall and weighs 875 pounds.
On average, about 700 hours are invested in repairing each rudder, Mr. Esquivel said. First they strip the paint, then perform a non-destructive inspection to check for hairline fractures and missing fasteners.

Afterward, the mechanics perform whatever repairs are required. Typically the thin metal skin is dented or torn and needs to be replaced. Recently the shop's mechanics also had to replace a power control unit fitting; Scott Rippetoe, Work Leader with the 551st CMMXS, said the PCU attaches to the power control unit actuator, which controls side-to-side movement of the rudder.

After all repairs are finished, the rudder is sent to the corrosion control shop, where a corrosion prevention substance is sprayed throughout the interior of the rudder. Next, the exterior of the rudder is repainted, and then the unit is sent to a weight and balance shop.

Eventually the rudder is returned to the supply chain for reinstallation on an aircraft. The units are interchangeable on any KC-135, said Lead Mechanic Clyde Marsh of the 76th Commodities Maintenance Group.

The rudder shop logged a perfect record during a recent eight-month period, receiving no quality deficiency reports from Oct. 1, 2012, through May 31, 2013.

The KC-135 Stratotanker entered the Air Force between 1957 and 1965, and more than 400 of them are still flying. More than 150 are on active duty, and the rest are assigned to the Air Force Reserve or the Air National Guard. The aircraft are used primarily for aerial refueling but also as flying command posts and for reconnaissance missions.