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T-38 mechanics reach second milestone with 200th on-time aircraft

By Robert Goetz | Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Public Affairs | Dec. 13, 2012

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas — Nov. 29 wasn't just another day at the hangar for the mechanics and technicians at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph who keep the Air Force's aging T-38 fleet up and flying.

For the second time in 10 months, the 130 civilians of the 571st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Operating Location A reached a production milestone by completing on-time modifications to the 200th aircraft that has come out of the depot since it became a government facility.

"One hundred doesn't just happen; 200 doesn't just happen in our business," Jay Gregson, 571st AMXS OL-A depot maintenance director, told his crew after they posed for photos to celebrate the feat. "Kicking out 200 planes straight has never been done by any other weapon system."

The 571st AMXS OL-A team, which is assigned to the Ogden Air Logistics Complex' 309th Aircraft Maintenance Group at Hill AFB, Utah, installed video data transfer and speed brake systems as part of the 200th on-time aircraft's modification. The T-38 from Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, was delivered to Randolph Nov. 5.

The team reached its first milestone Feb. 6 when it completed its 100th consecutive on-time production work order since the Air Force assumed operation of the depot from contractor Lear Sigler Inc. in October 2010.

Addressing his crew at the celebration, Gregson said everyone on the team, even those who have recently arrived, makes a difference.

"Each one of you guys has a piece of the 200, whether you realize it or not," he said. "Even if you've been here one day, you're a part of it. It's the teamwork we have with all the different agencies involved here that allows this to happen."

An extensive modification project, scheduled to begin in fiscal 2014, means more milestones are on the horizon for the 571st AMXS OL-A team, which will more than double in size by the end of 2013.

"Right now we're at 130 personnel and we stand to grow to more than 320 by the end of this next year," Gregson said. "Our biggest workload will be starting in October 2013 with the Pacer Classic III modification, which essentially replaces major structures of 125 jets in order to continue safely flying the T-38 until the T-X trainer comes on line. It is a form of life extension."

Gregson said the $250 million Pacer Classic III program includes funding for the modification of 125 T-38Cs - 51 identified as high-risk aircraft and 74 to avoid grounding by 2020.

"We'll modify 22 T-38Cs per year, and each aircraft will take six months to complete," he said.

Another major project, scheduled to begin this fiscal year, is the removal and replacement of flight control system critical safety items in more than 500 T-38s stemming from a 2009 mishap that was attributed to faulty flight control rods, Gregson said.

Gregson, who said the 571st AMXS OL-A is on track to become a squadron, noted the team's workload will increase from more than 120,000 hours in fiscal 2013 to more than 340,000 hours in fiscal 2014, when PCIII production will be in full swing.