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AFCEE builds new C-17 hangar at Hickam

by Marti D. Ribeiro
Air Force Center for Engineering and the Environment

6/22/2007 - SAN ANTONIO (AFPN) -- Officials at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, are making room for eight C-17 Globemaster IIIs with the construction of various facilities, including a new corrosion control hangar to paint and wash the aircraft and another facility to perform maintenance functions.

The Air Force Center for Engineering and the Environment is charged with constructing a 63,945-square-foot corrosion control hangar (large enough to house a professional football field) to include a hangar bay, four offices and break, locker, composite repair, tool, paint and media-blast rooms. 

They will also install a 271-foot tow lane to provide access from the hangar to the airfield.

"Currently there are no existing facilities large enough to environmentally perform aircraft corrosion control (paint and wash) functions on the C-17s at Hickam," said Kevin Wong, the project principal with URS who was contracted to build the facility.

Adjacent to the hangar, AFCEE is also constructing a 25,301-square-foot C-17 maintenance shop.

"This will house the pneudraulics, electro/environmental and non-destructive inspection shops," said Capt. Kevin Szymanski, the project manager and AFCEE liaison to Pacific Air Force Command.

But that's not all AFCEE is building.

"We're also putting in a 979-square-foot fire protection pump facility to include above-ground water tanks which are capable of holding up to 130,000 gallons," he said. This facility provides water to the hangar in the event of a fire.

The pump facilities provide a much-needed capability that the current facility doesn't accommodate, Captain Szymanski said. Typical water mains cannot deliver water quickly enough, but the new pumps will boost the water delivery rate and can get the fire under control faster.

These facilities are positioned to become part of a C-17 campus at Hickam AFB, which will eventually include flight simulators, squadron operations building and a consolidated maintenance complex. AFCEE is responsible for the construction of the hangar and the maintenance facilities.

Currently, the majority of the C-17 maintenance is conducted outside in the elements and although good weather usually prevails in Hawaii, they do experience trade winds on a routine basis, said Col. John Torres, the 15th Airlift Wing commander.

When the tradewinds get too strong, many operations become too dangerous to perform, such as jacking up the aircraft to change tires and working on top of the 55-foot tail, he said.

"The weather can and does impact our current maintenance capabilities," Colonel Torres said.

With this new C-17 campus, maintenance crews will have the ability to fix aircraft despite the weather, as well as perform large-scale maintenance functions that previously were only conducted at other C-17 locations.

"In the end, the total life cycle costs to operate and maintain the C-17s decrease by having hangar capability here at Hickam," Colonel Torres said. 

The construction of the hangar provides the culmination of the transformation of the wing from an air base wing to a full-fledged air mobility flying wing, the colonel said.

"These hangars represent the final steps in standing up the C-17 program at Hickam," he said.

But this project, which began in March 2006, has not been without its challenges.

"The major challenge to this project was the contract award process," said Pat Atkinson, Installations Worldwide Pacific division chief at AFCEE.

This is a Military Construction, or MILCON, project which has its own appropriations and directives to follow. This is a very detail-oriented process in which AFCEE is currently the exception, not the norm, for a project with this magnitude and complexity.

AFCEE was able to overcome those challenges and the project is scheduled to be finished at the end of December.

"This operation at Hickam is a first," Colonel Torres said. "Perhaps symbolically, the erection of the hangers say, the C-17s are here to stay in Hawaii." 

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