Shelters protect Robins mechanics from elements

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE -- Life is better for a small group of C-130 mechanics at Robins Air Force Base this summer.

While heavy maintenance is done in hangars, some lighter maintenance and modifications are done outdoors. Building new hangars to accommodate all of that work would take millions of dollars, but the base is employing a cheaper method to get mechanics out of the elements.

During the past year, eight shelters officially deemed as “temporary” structures have been constructed for about $400,000 each. Only one is unfinished, and it is expected be done soon. Although classified as temporary, the structures actually are expected to last 20 years or more.

Steve Adcock, D-flight chief in the 560th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, said the shelters have been a big improvement not only for the comfort of mechanics but also to get work done faster and more safely.

Work leader James Dean said the shelters have made a big difference to mechanics.

“It’s just as well as being in a hangar,” he said.

There is also more to the project than shelter. Previously, Adcock explained, mechanics doing the outdoor work had two portable toilets in the work area and relied on gas generators for power.

The shelter project includes a large office area with restrooms and electricity, water and air supply to each shelter. The offices previously were in small trailers.

Before the shelters, weather would often delay work. Not only could mechanics not work in the rain, the risk of slippage meant they could not climb on the plane until it dried off.

Also on hot days the aircraft surface could get up to 160 degrees, too hot for mechanics to even be able to touch the aircraft. The shelters have solved that problem.

By having dedicated power sources, it has reduced the clutter and improved safety and efficiency, Adcock said.

Under one of the shelters last week, mechanics were at work on a C-130 weather reconnaissance airplane that is much needed because of hurricane season.

The plane is about 90 percent done, and Adcock said the work would be nowhere near that point if it were still being done outdoors.

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.