Airmen Preserve Heritage, Restore Aircraft
(March 13, 2011)
|JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. (3/9/2011 - AFNS) --
Sparks were flying inside one airplane hangar near the
flightline here March 4, as active-duty and Reserve
maintenance technicians worked to restore an air mobility
Airmen tow a C-118 Liftmaster from its static display area near the passenger terminal at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., Oct. 23, 2009. The aircraft once flew an Army sergeant by the name of Elvis Presley on his return from an overseas tour in Germany in 11200. The aircraft is being resurfaced with environmentally-friendly paints and will be put back on display by the end of summer 2011.
For decades, a C-118 Liftmaster stood on display near the
passenger terminal here, but in October 2009, it was towed
to a maintenance hangar in order to restore the
deteriorating aircraft to its former glory.|
restoration project began, Airmen and volunteers have
contributed more than 3,000 hours of work time, including
nearly 750 hours of off-duty personal time, to get the
Liftmaster back to its position as the sentry of the
Liftmaster airplanes were flown
by Airmen from the 1611th Air Transport Wing here during the
1950s and '60s. As the first cargo plane assigned to McGuire
Air Force Base, the long-range, piston-powered transport
aircraft helped define the base's role as a mobility
Working on older aircraft can be
challenging. Maintenance technicians who typically work on
the base's KC-10 Extenders or C-17 Globemaster IIIs, some of
which are just a few years old, found themselves plying
their trade on an aircraft that had its heyday in the middle
of the 20th century.
Technical sergeants Joseph
Martinek and Jarod Jones, of the 305th Maintenance Squadron,
were the primary source of the flying sparks as they spent
the morning grinding and cutting out remnants of the mount
that held the aircraft to its spot on the static display.
Sergeant Martinek said he appreciated being able to work
on an aircraft that was flown and maintained by Airmen of
previous generations, but the restoration project was no
"It's not something you get to do all the
time," he said. "Most people in the Air Force don't realize
the amount of work that goes into these old birds."
While Liftmasters were an important part of McGuire AFB's
history, one Airman appreciated the plane's individual
After serving a tour in Germany, Army Sgt.
Elvis Presley returned to the U.S. aboard the aircraft, amid
much fanfare, 51 years ago.
"I'm from Memphis," said
Airman 1st Class Marco Andrade, a metals technology
technician with the 305th MXS. "Everything out there is
about Elvis. My grandmother loves Elvis."
did the restoration project provide a personal connection to
Airman Andrade's hometown, but he said it also provided a
learning experience. Modern aircraft structures are
typically built from carbon fibers, while the structures of
the C-118 are made from simple fiberglass and aluminum.
"I can't thank enough all those who have busted knuckles
on this project, and put in much of their own valuable time
and sweat equity to get us to this point," said Senior
Master Sgt. Christopher Hofrichter, a member of the 514th
Maintenance Group and the project manager for the
restoration. "What the sheet metal guys have done is nothing
short of miraculous."
Sergeant Hofrichter said static
displays of historical aircraft help future generations of
Airmen to become more familiar with the legacy upon which
their time in uniform is built.
"From the outset,
this project seemed a pretty daunting endeavor, but now that
the painting has started, I'm beginning to see some light at
the end of the tunnel," he said. "We're optimistic on a
late-summer return-to-display date."
Article and photo by USAF TSgt. Shawn J. Jones|
514th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
Air Force News
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