AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy -- The 31st Maintenance Squadron unveiled Aviano's first locally-painted F-16 during a ribbon cutting ceremony for a new NATO-funded Corrosion Control Facility here Oct. 19, which will enable the squadron to sustain and extend the life of F-16 fighter jets and avoid costs to perform the task elsewhere.
The 31st Fighter Wing expects to save $32,000 per aircraft by painting the F-16s locally as opposed to sending personnel on temporary duty to another base to accomplish the work.
"The new facility will allow personnel assigned to the aircraft structural maintenance corrosion control section to conduct all aspects of corrosion control and treatment, to include sanding, media blasting, priming and painting and stenciling an entire F-16," said 2nd Lt. Eric Boehm, 31st MXS fabrication flight commander. "
The NATO-funded Corrosion Control Facility began construction April 2009. Due to variances in specifications between NATO and U.S. Air Force facilities, multiple follow-on projects are being compiled into a contract to bring the facility up to par with Air Force regulations.
The number of aircraft scheduled to be painted each year varies according to Master Sgt. Jason Kibler, 31st MXS assistant section chief and corrosion manager, but two more F-16s are expected to be painted by the end of the year now that they have a facility to do the painting.
A high operations tempo means F-16's will be frequently inspected and that the facility will be put to good use.
"Corrosion control ensures that our F-16 fleet doesn't rust or corrode, which creates weakness in the structure of the aircraft. This is incredibly important when you look at the age of our F-16 fleet and how much longer we anticipate using them," said Boehm.
"The aircraft are 'scored' for the overall integrity of the paint on the jet and based on how good or bad it scores (missing, deteriorated or faded paint all detract from the score) determines if an immediate full paint is required," Kibler said. "Through the use of scheduled touch ups and inspections, we can mitigate the amount of full paints required."
From start to finish, the corrosion control facility shop can have a jet sanded, primed and painted in less than a week. Kibler credits the work ethic of his team for being able to complete the jets within the timeframe given.
"The Airmen and NCOs assigned to this section, not just in the corrosion facility, are a dedicated group of very hard workers that are able to accomplish the task at hand under any circumstance," said Kibler. "Ingenuity and outside the box thinking have allowed for the personnel assigned to overcome shortfalls and obstacles to get the job done."
For Tech. Sgt. Brian Hardwick, 31st MXS NCO-in-charge of corrosion control, he takes satisfaction in the finished product.
"Not only are we extending a jet's life, but there's a sense of pride in making the jet look nice."