USAF’s Upgraded KC-135 Aircraft Enters Maintenance

  • 12:00 AM, October 25, 2012
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The first of 17 upgraded KC-135 Stratotankers landed for routine maintenance, the USAF said in a statement. This KC-135 features Block 45 upgrades which are designed to modernize the decades-old aircraft and improve its life expectancy. "The goal is to keep the planes non-obsolete, relevant and legal to fly," said Maj. Chris Brockman, 22nd Operations Support Squadron operations support training deputy chief. "We're trying to future-proof these planes". The upgrades include a liquid crystal display screen in the cockpit in place of older gauges on the instrumentation panel and a new autopilot function. The gauges used in current KC-135s are becoming more difficult to find and too expensive to purchase, said Brockman. The switch from analog gauges to a digital display will also affect aircraft maintenance and repairs. "As far as maintenance is concerned, the change to analog makes my job easier," said Tech. Sgt. King Sanders, 22nd Air Maintenance Squadron instruments flight controls lead technician. "It also replaces close to 10 other systems with one central computer". Before the 17 planes can leave the testing phase and join their operational counterparts in mid-2013, more than 60 pilots will complete initial training and then begin instructing other pilots on the new features. A Block 45 KC-135 simulator will also be developed as a training tool. This is the latest in a series of upgrades on the KC-135. Block 20 replaced much of the original instrumentation with 1980s-era technology into the planes while Block 30 improved automation. Block 40 allowed satellite interaction in the previous modernization update.
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