McConnell Air Force Base: Bigger And Busier

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Monday, December 20, 2010

A recent ceremonial delivery of a KC-135 tanker from Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota means McConnell Air Force Base has more tankers than any other base.

If it seems like you're seeing a lot more KC-135s flying in and around Wichita, you're not imagining things. It's because McConnell is the largest tanker base in the world flying the most missions.

"We're real busy," Chief Master Sergeant Bart Ellis of the 22nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron said. Busy, he says, keeping more of the KC-135s in the air.

McConnell now has all the tankers from the base realignment of two years ago. Having 63 tankers assigned here means the air force can expect to call on 48 of them at any one time, while others are grounded for maintenance.

Currently, McConnell tankers and crews are in the Middle East supporting flights over Afghanistan including those giving close air support to soldiers and marines on the ground. Some of the planes bear the marks of being in the desert.

Last year, these planes flew more than 41% of all the KC-135 missions. What is the reason for that we ask McConnell leaders?

"We do our business better than anyone else in the world."

Doing their business better and bigger comes with more challenges. "It is a challenge, especially when you consider the KC-135 is approximately 50 years-old. So it takes quite a few people to make sure we have safe, reliable aircraft for our airmen to fly every day."

The age of McConnell's maintainers are about half the age of the planes. The base is having to train up their own mechanics because of the tremendous growth. The base added about 300 maintainers this past year and will add about 140 more next year.

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