TCTO sends Airmen into KC-135R “hellhole”

By Staff Sgt. Dakota Bergl 434th ARW Public Affairs

No maintainer enjoys being required to climb into the small compartment, often called the “hellhole,” in the tail of a KC-135R Stratotanker, even if it just for a short time.

However, due to a new time compliance technical order, several Airmen have been tasked with removing and replacing the stabilizer trim actuator in four of Grissom’s aircraft, a job requiring several days of work in the small tail compartment.

“This project is a lot of work,” said Tech. Sgt. Nathan Maiuri, 434th Maintenance Group repair and reclamation technician. “It is going to take us two or three days for each aircraft affected by the TO change. We have to pull the old actuator out, inspect and install the new actuator then run a flight control system test to ensure the new actuator is installed and working properly.”

Maiuri said working in the tail compartment is difficult due to the cramped nature of the space, less than 10 feet in any direction with entry gained by removing a panel and climbing up through the small hole behind the panel. Luckily for Maiuri the aircraft he was woking on was pulled into Dock 6, the only hangar Grissom has capable of fitting a KC-135R from nose to tail.

“I’m just glad that we aren’t out on the flightline doing this,” said Maiuri. “We have to climb up here more than you’d think and it’s hard enough being crammed in here without having to deal with being out in the cold.”

The recent TCTO required that actuators with certain serial numbers be inspected due to a possible defect.

“The TCTO came down after they found out the coating used on the jack screws on some of the actuators could start peeling off,” said Senior Master Sgt. Daniel Lecroy, 434th MXG noncommissioned officer in charge of repair and reclamation. “If any of the actuators on our aircraft matched the serial numbers in the TCTO we had to inspect them for any chipping or flaking.”

The stabilizer trim actuator controls the horizontal stabilizer which along with the elevator the pilots use to adjust the pitch, or up and down movement, of the aircraft’s nose. It can be operated either electrically or manually to adjust the stabilizer. During normal operation the pilots use electrical input by pressing small switch on their control column. Manual input is used for minor adjustments or in the case of an electrical failure.

The 434th ARW is the largest KC-135R Stratotanker unit in the Air Force Reserve Command. Men and women from the Hoosier Wing routinely deploy around the world in support of the Air Force mission.

Editor's note: The original story can be viewed on the Grissom Air Reserve Base website.