Evident Ultrasonic Inspection Equipment
0th MXS Wheel and Tire Shop Keeps the Mission Rolling
By: Heide Couch
Source: 60th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs, Travis Air Force Base, CA
On his way in the door, Senior Airman Maurice Gardiner was expecting an easy ride.

How hard could it be in the Wheel and Tire Shop, he thought.

But the Airman from the 60th Maintenance Squadron was in for a surprise. The shop handles assembly and dismantling of all tires for C-5 Galaxy and C-17 Globemaster III aircraft, working on about 80 tires per month, according to Tech. Sgt. Alex Baker, one of the shop's two noncommissioned officers.

The shop's duties weigh heavily on the clock. Preparing or disassembling a tire can take hours, something that Airman Gardiner wasn't anticipating.

"When I first came here, I had the impression this was going to be easy, a cake job," Airman Gardiner said. "It's not like that. We put in hard work. We do a lot of work."

It's messy work, too. The bolts, bearings, wheel halves and other parts the eight-man team disassembles and reassembles on a daily basis are slathered in a thick coat of sloppy, heavy grease to help the parts withstand the intensity of bearing the weight of an aircraft.

Inevitably, that grease winds up on the coveralls the Airmen wear. Senior Airman Kevin Kirschke, one of the maintainers, said he washes his clothes multiple times a week in a futile attempt to keep them clean.

"It's a very dirty job," Sergeant Baker said.

Door knobs, drawer handles or anything that sees heavy hand traffic requires a vigilant eye to keep the shop unblemished, Sergeant Baker said.

The shop's dirty, labor-intensive tasks chew up hours on the clock.

A wheel entering the shop delivered from the flightline must first be dismantled. Incoming wheels and tires are either blown out, have leaks or have worn out their tread.
First, the shop's members must remove bolts and bearings and, if necessary, the valve stem. The metal halves on which the tires sit are unfastened and removed and the rubber outer ring, the "skin," is shed. The skins can be reused several times before they're either melted down or disposed of in other fashions.

The white and silver halves are sent to wash rack operations for cleaning. Upon their return, the "repacking process" begins -- readying a tire to return to flight.

The tire is seated on the halves before they're greased and sealed. Securing and fastening the two sides of the halves' bolts and bearings comes next.

At this point, C-5 wheels are ready to go, but the wheels and bolts of the C-17 require inspection before they can be sent back to the flightline.

The floor of the shop is filled with rows of new wheels ready to go. A combined total of more than 100 tires are on hand to service the two airframes -- a C-5 has 28 wheels while a C-17 has 14.

A commercial outfit handles the wheels and tires for the KC-10 Extender.

The life of the average wheel is 180 days, Airman Kirschke said. However, all the wheels on an aircraft are changed prior to an inspection because leadership determined it is more cost-effective to replace wheels and tires on domestic soil, he said.

Because the shop is so small, the atmosphere is familial. As bearings and bolts are removed from old tires and fastened onto new ones, crew members jovially battle over what will blare from the shop's loudspeakers.

"This is a real small shop," Airman Laurent said. "That's different than we're used to in maintenance."

Because of the minimal duties in the shop, its members rotate tasks to prevent burnout. Also, the shop's turnover rate is high -- at about one year, Airmen Kirschke and Gardiner are the senior-most members in the shop.

The routine nature of the work effects different Airmen differently. For one of the shop's members, the repetition feels like a grind.

But for Airman Gardiner, it might be more work than he expected when he first joined the shop, but he relishes the routine.

"I like this work," he said. "Every day? Doing the same thing? I like it."


60th MXS wheel and tire shop keeps the mission rolling
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Joseph Palke, 60th Maintenance Squadron wheel and tire team member, peeks through a wheel at the wheel and tire shop at Travis Air Force Base, California, July 14, 2022. The 60th MXS wheel and tire shop conducts wheel and tire maintenance services and inspections for the C-17 Globemaster III and C-5M Super Galaxy. The 60th MXS also supplies completed wheel assemblies for the Pacific Air Forces region. (U.S. Air Force photo by Heide Couch)

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