Located about halfway between Los Angeles and Death Valley lies one of the most historic air force bases in the country. Edwards AFB, so named in honor of Capt. Glen Edward, a test pilot who died while testing the original flying wing aircraft, has made a lot of history. Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier there and Arthur “Kit” Murray flew the same X-1 aircraft higher than anyone had ever gone the same year.
Today that same base is helping the 173rd Fighter Wing in Klamath Falls, Oregon, commemorate some of its own history.
For a host of reasons including temperature control, ventilation and even oxygen supply the paint barn at the wing isn’t suitable for painting whole aircraft and so the project needed a place that could solve all of those issues. Edwards stepped up and volunteered a bay in their dedicated corrosion control facility, or what we call a “paint barn”.
Master Sgt. Paul Allen has a large reservoir of experience in specially painted aircraft, most recently the Screamin’ Eagle, which commemorated the 20th anniversary of the 173rd Fighter Wing, and he made the trip to Edwards with a team of five others.
“It took us about 14 hours to make the drive down there,” he said, “and the Edwards folks were really supportive.”
And the project began without a hitch, until of course, there was one. Through painful experience in painting the Screamin’ Eagle (story here) Allen knew they needed to use a two-part paint requiring a catalyst. It’s tougher and wouldn’t require as much touch-up after flying, he said.
In order to make the colors, those of a B-17 bomber, the manufactured needed plenty of lead time to mix a batch of special colors for the project, which they supplied without a problem.
“We wanted to put mil-spec paint on the jet instead of the automotive paint that we dealt with last time,” he said. “They don’t really make B-17 colors anymore so we had to put a special order. They have to shut down the production line and then do spray-outs and testing to make sure they are matching our federal paint standard codes.”
None of that presented an issue but as you may sense, a problem did arise. Half of special-order paint arrived and the other half went missing.
“We received some of the colors but not the catalyst that needed to go with it and then we received some of the catalyst without the colors,” said Allen.
As the team would learn, one of the crates of paint was damaged in shipping and was slated for disposal because it was leaking—a total loss. The team needed the paint right away and couldn’t wait for a new batch to arrive. The solution to the problem involved a two-hour trip into Las Angeles.
“The place that is manufacturing our custom-made paint is only two hours away in Southern California,” said Allen. “We were able to just jump in the truck, haul butt to LA, haul butt back and we were spraying orange by noon,” he said with a chuckle.
The rest of the colors they secured the rest by working with Edwards Maintenance Group to borrow some of the colors they had in stock, Edwards is a test base and keeps many more colors on-hand than a typical base.
“They had it in stock because they are a big facility and they are painting all sorts of random, various aircraft because it’s such a diverse airfield,” he said. Another fortunate turn of events for the Heritage Jet project.
With that obstacle in the rear-view mirror the remainder of the project went smoothly.
Allen said he enjoyed the project and so did his team, “The camaraderie between the guys to see them buy into what it was all about and the sentiment behind what DRK did and being able to paint an F-15 in the likeness of his B-17 aircraft,” he added. “You saw the extra effort come out of them—they knew what it was all about.”
The crew included Staff Sgts. Drew Sorlien, Tim Bodner, Cameron Curtin, Jeff Southern, and Derek Larman.
|Date Posted:||01.09.2020 17:45|
|Location:||KLAMATH FALLS, OR, US|
This work, Edwards AFB lends Kingsley Field hand in historic project, by MSgt Jefferson Thompson, identified by DVIDS, must comply with the restrictions shown on https://www.dvidshub.net/about/copyright.
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