By Chief Master Sgt. Wayne Brown, 104th Fighter Wing
/ Published October 31, 2014
BARNES AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, WESTFIELD, Mass. -- During the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) of 2006 the 104th Fighter Wing learned that our mission had changed and we would be exchanging our beloved A-10 Thunderbolt IIs for the F-15C/D Eagle. Sadly, our brothers and sisters at the east end of our state, the 102nd Fighter Wing from Otis ANGB, were also changing missions and would become the primary source of our replacement aircraft. Late in the summer of 2007, the 104FW started receiving its replacement aircraft.
During this transition, Otis was fulfilling several tasks including "overhauling" F-15C/Ds from Kadena AFB and preparing to fly them to Barnes, and also preparing several older F-15As for flight to the boneyard, never to be flown again. Col. Kenneth Lambrich, then a pilot at Otis, was reviewing the list of aircraft to be flown to the boneyard when he came across aircraft 77-0104. At first opportunity he mentioned the tail number to Col. Kerdavid, then Base Commander of the 104FW, and suggested it would be the perfect candidate to become a static display at Barnes. Col. Kerdavid agreed and started the paperwork process needed to acquire the aircraft before it reached the boneyard. Shortly there-after, the National Museum of the United States Air Force approved the transfer of F-15A aircraft 77-0104 from Otis ANGB to Barnes ANGB. Col. Lambrich had the distinct privilege of flying the aircraft for the very last time to its final resting place here at the 104th.
Since Barnes maintainers were still attending training classes on how to maintain its newest acquisition, Otis personnel arrived to de-arm the aircraft, which basically means to safe the aircraft; remove all explosive devices, fuel, and other potential items that may pose a hazard to personnel. Once completed, the aircraft was unceremoniously towed to the other side of the base to a cement pad next to the hush house where it was moored in-place and all but forgotten...until September 2013.
After a static meeting chaired by Col. Lambrich mid-summer, the push was on to start thinking about "de-militarizing" the aircraft. Every aircraft that is to become a static display must be de-mil'd (for short), which involves a lot of time and effort removing specific systems, internally trashing some while putting others back in the supply system for use, manufacturing fixed flight control rod so surfaces don't move, covering openings to prevent nesting and bees, ensuring all explosives have been removed, hazardous fluids drained, removal of certain instruments that have radio-active components and much, much, more. The folks at the boneyard require three months to de-mil an F-15 aircraft. We needed to find a way to de-mil aircraft 77-0104 without interfering with daily operational and maintenance requirements...no small task! As of this writing, this F-15A static display is destined to be displayed on public grounds at the future proposed new gate out by the Army entrance off Route 202.
Having worked the A-10 static display many years ago I had some insight on what must be done. My first call was to some old contacts at the National Museum of the USAF, Mrs. Sherry Howard, Mr. Mark Miller and Mr. Mark Wertheimer. They sent me a very large PDF de-mil package that had to be sent in three separate email attachments. Armed with the process, I broke the package down into four binders for distribution to various shops to make things easier. Next, after conferring with MXG Commanders and Production supervisor, we felt we could make a significant impact in the de-mil process while we were relocated to Westover, AFRB and Otis ANGB during the runway construction project.
The next step was to contact Civil Engineering (CE) to kill the bees swarming throughout the aircraft which had been sitting stationary for six years! With the help of the Fire department and one of their trucks used to hose down the aircraft, CE and Fire department personnel battled the bees on multiple separate occasions in July before we could consider moving the aircraft to the Corrosion hangar to start de-milling the aircraft. However, it took another two weeks of continuously closed doors to kill-off the rest of the bees before we could work the Aircraft. I can't tell you how many bees I squashed underfoot in that hangar but it must be close to being a Guinness Book World record!
Now the serious work started. Weapons, Avionics and Egress shops had to complete large checklists to ensure specific equipment items were left installed, removed, turned into supply, destroyed (internally), names plates removed, etc. Propulsion had to join the two sections of the motor for install. APG, Phase and R&R removed and replaced panels and actuators; R&R had the tires filled with solid foam; Electric shop removed specific wiring and parts; Metals Tech manufactured fixed rods to secure flight controls and securing devices to hold the partial engines in-place solidly; and Structural shop fabricated missing panels, covered opening where possible, riveted doors closed, secured the rudders, and manufactured covers for both the aircraft intakes and exhaust systems.
With the de-militarization process finally completed almost a year later to-the-day; there were still two more pieces to the puzzle to be completed. Since the aircraft is not going to be placed on display for a while, there was no reason to have it painted and stickered at this time. This will be a future contract to be accomplished prior to being displayed at the future new gate. Additionally, the last thing we want is to have all the hard work to be undone by the elements, father time, or to have bee's re-infest the aircraft! Research and work on a contract to cocoon the aircraft in shrink-wrap started in July 2014. By the time the aircraft de-mil was completed, so were the particulars of the contract.
A company called Atlantic Shrink Wrapping Inc., managed by Dustin Hoover, was selected for the project. They had never shrink wrapped an F-15 before but had experience with helicopters and smaller aircraft. They did an outstanding job, completing it in two days in October. With the wheels exposed, the aircraft can be towed and moored as necessary. The process included bubble wrapping the aircraft first to protect the shrink wrap from sharp edges, desiccant material placed in the larger openings between bubble and first layer of shrink wrap, and finished with two layers of shrink wrap material.
De-militarizing the F-15A took a herculean effort and ingenuity from many personnel in shops and offices across the base. Col. Green, Lt. Col. Bigelow, Lt. Col. Carr, Maj. Dibrindisi, Lt. Hickox, and I would like to thank all those that helped bring the process to this point including the supervisors who found the time to allow their folks to work the aircraft, and most of all, to the Production supervisor who may have occasionally wondered why some things took a little longer to fix than expected. The following personnel and offices deserve a well-earned pat-on-the-back!
(I apologize if I missed someone!)
Fire Dept: Fire Department Personnel
Civil Engineering: Civ Chris Gouin
Contracting: Tech Sgt. Lori Rowe ,Senior Master Sgt. Kyle Kiepke
MXG RA: Senior Airman Amanda Savoie
Finance: Maj. Jason Roberts
Phase: Senior Airman Alexandro Laftsidis, Staff Sgt. John Wilson, Staff Sgt. Cliff Daily, Staff Sgt. Brian Richardson, Tech Sgt. Joshua Darling
Repair and Reclamation: Tech Sgt. Ryan Joyce
Metals Technology: Tech Sgt. Travis Miller, MSgt Tim Dorman
Structural: Senior Airman Richard Huard, Senior Airman Robert Burns, Staff Sgt. Krissa Fondakowski, Staff Sgt. Amber Trombley, Staff Sgt. Andy Coty, Tech Sgt. Todd Vayda, Master Sgt. Tim Schilling
Propulsion: Staff Sgt. Shane Morin, Staff Sgt. Scott Hathaway, Tech Sgt. Jason Loring, Tech Sgt. Bryan Lucas, Tech Sgt. Andrew Everett, Tech Sgt. Louie Ortiz, Master Sgt. Theodore Russell
Electro-Environmental: Tech Sgt. Brian McFarland
Weapons: Tech Sgt. Patrick Rud, Master Sgt. Seth Maheux, MSgt Ryan Shea
Avionics: Senior Airman Benjamin Digiammo, Tech Sgt. Sean Dowd, Tech Sgt. Marilyn Morales, Master Sgt. Orlando Fuentes, Master Sgt. Dustin Buck,
Crew Chiefs: Staff Sgt. Joshua Daniel