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43rd MXS uses expertise to repair 82nd Airborne static

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Jose Perez
  • 43rd Maintenance Squadron
When people think of aircraft maintenance, what comes to the mind is usually a sleek fighter jet taxiing out of a parking spot, guided by a camouflage-sporting Airman with a headset and bright orange wands. Others picture a dirty mechanic with a wrench and a dingy jumpsuit crawling out from underneath a large aircraft or walking away from a greasy engine. The maintainer that is often overlooked is the one working behind the scenes, fixing an aircraft or component. 

In this case, Pope maintainers from the 43rd Maintenance Squadron's aerospace repair shop helped fix an aircraft that thousands of Fort Bragg and Pope personnel drive by every day and seldom pay attention to. 

On Nov. 17, Tech. Sgt. Steven Brack and his shop of experts provided their unique aircraft crash recovery expertise to the Army's 82nd Airborne Division's Museum Heritage Air Park by assisting in repair of the C-46 Commando troop carrier aircraft on display. 

The Commando made history because it was the first aircraft to feature jump doors on both sides of the fuselage, which allowed 40 paratroopers to jump two at a time. It was also used to great effect during World War II's Operation Varsity, the crossing of the Rhein River, which was to be one of the final assaults on Germany. The C-46 served the U.S. Army Air Corps and later the U.S. Air Force from 1942 to 1969. 

Sergeant Brack and 22 other crash recovery specialists lifted the 82nd Airborne's C-46 using inflatable air bags. This allowed for the repair of the corroded support platforms displaying the aircraft. This unit of specially-trained Airmen raised the aircraft more than five feet in the air to remove the supports and rebuild the concrete foundation, which will secure the aircraft to steel stands. 

"It's not every day you get to lift a plane off the ground with a few air bags and a jack," Sergeant Brack said, "plus it's a great opportunity to train my young Airmen on something not every aircraft maintainer gets the chance to do, and we're helping out our Army counterparts." 

"This isn't the first time we've done this either," said Staff Sgt. Steven Lawrence, 43rd MXS. 

In fact, this same unit of Airmen came out to this same air park last year and lifted the C-47 Skytrain on display in order to reset and weld the aircraft onto the steel supports it rests on. The repairs were needed following damage from a wind storm. 

Pope maintainers have a long history of working on Army aircraft. As far back as the early 1940s, they have provided airlift to train Airborne Paratroopers. Air Force maintainers today are turning wrenches on aircraft that have been in service for an average of 25 years. On this day, they took the opportunity to assist their Army counterparts and keep a piece of their heritage alive by fixing a legacy aircraft no longer in the Air Force inventory. 

USAF crash recovery units are able to deploy to any site on a moment's notice, with the proper tools to efficiently and safely recover and transport crashed or disabled aircraft. They perform these tasks often in austere and unfriendly terrain. 

The 43rd MXS crash recovery team supports contingency operations at Pope and surrounding areas throughout the Carolinas. The crash recovery concept is to be able to work on anything, anytime, anywhere, but as far as Pope Airmen are concerned, it's just another day at the office.