Activation ceremony heralds new chapter in trainer aircraft maintenance story

  • Published
  • By Robert Goetz
  • 502nd Air Base Wing

A trainer aircraft maintenance training center that will serve the needs of Air Education and Training Command for decades to come will be activated during a ceremony at 10:15 a.m., Oct. 29, in Hangar 62 at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph. 

The ceremony, which will adhere to COVID-19 health and safety protocols, will feature remarks by Maj. Gen. Craig Wills, Nineteenth Air Force commander, and a display of T-1A, T-6A and T-38C trainer aircraft. 

The Maintenance Training Center, situated on the south end of Hangar 62, is the culmination of a four-year effort to create a facility that will produce a new generation of trainer aircraft technicians to follow in the footsteps of an aging work force of mechanics who were trained as active duty Air Force members. 

The Air Force reclassified trainer aircraft maintenance as a commercial activity in the mid-1980s, so it was no longer an active duty function, said Brian Bastow, Logistics Management Branch chief for the Nineteenth Air Force Directorate of Logistics. Maintenance duties were turned over to a civilian force consisting of those Air Force-trained technicians who retired or separated from the service. 

“That was OK because the Air Force was benefiting from a trained work force,” he said, “but now many of those professionals are retired or about to retire and we didn’t have the capability to replace them.” 

The MTC will provide that capability. 

“For new technicians we’ve been hiring high school graduates with mechanical aptitude and training them through on-the-job training, but it takes a long time for unstructured OJT,” Bastow said. “With the MTC, we’ll have the courses to train them in a structured setting.” 

Nine instructors are awaiting the start of classes in a matter of weeks, and the courses they teach will run the gamut from basic maintenance of the T-1A, T-6A and T-38C aircraft that serve AETC to more advanced classes such as jet propulsion and avionics. 

“We don’t have students enrolled yet, but we estimate we’ll be training several hundred a year,” Bastow said. 

The training center features a large 10,000-square-foot open area with a resurfaced floor that will accommodate the trainer aircraft used for training as well as new lights, overhead infrared gas heaters and specialized electrical components to power the aircraft. 

The renovation project included an overhaul of the large hangar doors, which were made fully operational again to allow aircraft to be towed in and out of the hangar. The doors rest on big wheel assemblies and are opened by pushing them manually on a rail in a horizontal direction. Paint was scraped off the glass window panes on the top part of the doors to allow for natural lighting. 

A 5,000-square-foot office area on the second floor of the hangar, previously used by the 502nd Civil Engineer Squadron for carpentry and metal shops, is also part of the training center. The 502nd CES continues to occupy the north side of the hangar. 

In addition to producing technicians for the 12th Flying Training Wing at JBSA-Randolph and Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, the training center will serve maintenance units for the flying training wings at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi; Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas; Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas; and Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma.