The teardown initiative
This “anticipate and manage” effort set in motion the largest and most comprehensive teardown effort ever conducted for the U.S. military. As part of its contract with CAStLE, Sabreliner and its team of subcontractors began a two-year structural teardown, an autopsy per se, on a 1957 model KC-135E. The aircraft was previously retired and later retrieved from the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG), located at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, in order to conduct a comprehensive teardown and analysis of the fuselage, empennage and wings.
To get the project started, the aircraft was cut into large sections referred to as “lots” and trucked across the country to Ste. Genevieve, a small historic town that lies 60 miles south of St. Louis along the Mississippi River. The lots then entered a very methodical teardown process defined by CAStLE-developed protocols that, according to the director of CAStLE, Sabreliner has “industrialized” over the past two years. The lots were cut into sections; the sections were precisely disassembled into parts; and the parts were stripped of their paint and fuel sealant. After consuming thousands of drill bits and utilizing terabytes of computer storage for the thousands of high-resolution photographs documenting each and every part, the parts then entered a very disciplined inspection process in search of fatigue cracks and corrosion caused by five decades of flying. Once these indications were found, the parts were shipped to the Air Force Academy where an intense metallurgical failure analysis took place.
The project concluded with a detailed summary of the findings in a comprehensive 1,437-page final report.
“This report will help government officials determine not only the current condition of the fleet, but the long-term structural viability to support and potentially exceed the goal of flying these aircraft through 2040,” says Fallert.
The expanding need for aircraft structural teardown analysis has created a unique niche for Sabreliner Corporation. It continues to support the vital mission of aircraft structural integrity as it progresses through its fifth teardown in two and a half years. Teardowns have been performed on four different mission design series (MDS) aircraft consisting of two KC-135s, a T-38, a C-130, and a Boeing 707.
It’s 2013 and two timeless veterans are still in service to the nation. While the KC-135’s mission has remained the same since the aircraft’s inception, Sabreliner Corporation’s mission has diversified since production of the first business jet in the ‘50s. While Sabreliner today supports its fleet, it also specializes in aircraft maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO), airframe structural repair, engine overhaul, as well as manufacturing high-quality parts for fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft.
It was the ‘50s. And while its style has long faded, both Sabreliner and the KC-135 continue to be in service, proving that no matter the era, one thing remains the same: quality is timeless. AMT
For more information on Sabreliner visit www.sabreliner.com. Kristen Lalumondiere, with Sabreliner Corporation in Ste. Genevieve, assisted with the article. For more information on CAStLE visit http://www.usafa.edu/df/dfe/dfer/centers/castle/.
Contract by the United States Air Force Academy to provide engineering and research support for aging aircraft structures.
The production assembly center will be located in a building adjacent to Sabreliner’s existing Ste. Genevieve, Mo., facility.