Give me shelter: the Army Corps pulls the Air Force reserve out of the cold | Local News

Close to the United States-Canada-New York border are the iconic Niagara Falls and the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station. This is where Airmen make important decisions every day to protect the United States, even when they repair their aircraft in freezing weather that can reach 14 degrees Fahrenheit.

“I tell them all the time; every time they look at the plane, with every piece they look at, they make life and death decisions. I mean, if you can’t even focus on what you’re looking at because you’re so cold, it’s hard, ”said Lt. Col. Al Knapp, 914th Maintenance Group commander, Reserve Station. aerial view of Niagara Falls.

“We didn’t have a shelter where we could shelter our airmen from the elements, where they could devote the time and attention needed to work on these planes.”

Now the Airmen have this shelter because the US Army Corps of Engineers, New York District is renovating two aircraft hangars so the Airmen can work in and out of the cold and fulfill their mission. in the country.

Air Force Reserve Commander Lt. Gen. Richard Scobee said: “Our Citizen Reserve Airmen provide a unique strategic capability to the Department of Defense, which enables effective combat readiness in reserve capacity. ”

The Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station is a US Air Force Reserve Command military installation. Currently, more than 1,700 personnel are assigned to the station, including the Active Guard Reserve, Active Reserve Technician, Traditional Reserve, DoD civilian and 914 Wing contract personnel. in-flight refueling.

Lucas E. Morrow, public affairs officer, 914th Air Refueling Wing, 2nd Lt., USAF said: “The 914th Air Refueling Wing has twelve squadrons assigned to the station, each with a specific responsibility including air refueling. , global mobility, aero-medical evacuation, explosives disposal orders, fire prevention services and security forces, civil engineering, force support and air port. ”

“However, with specific objectives, all Airmen play a unique role that is our core mission, which is to train, develop and provide rapid and comprehensive global mobility to the Joint Force, anytime, anywhere. “

After airmen have completed multiple flights, they are required to bring the aircraft in for scheduled maintenance checks and inspections in the aircraft hangars at the station.

An aircraft hangar is an enclosed building structure for accommodating aircraft. They are constructed of metal, wood or concrete and are used for protection from the elements, direct sunlight and for the maintenance, repair, manufacture, assembly and storage of airplanes.

Sometimes hangars are needed for unscheduled maintenance. Knapp said: “That’s when, for example, a plane flew last night, fell and his radio broke. We need hangers to be able to pull an airplane inside, sheltered from the elements, and do the necessary work inside. ”

To do all this work, the station needed to modernize its aircraft hangars. Joseph Salvatore, project manager, New York district, US Army Corps of Engineers, said, “The hangars on the reserve were outdated. They were built to provide maintenance space for C-130 cargo planes that 914 Wing no longer flies. They now fly KC-135 Stratotanker refueling planes.

Knapp added: “When we transferred from the C-130s to the KC-135s the hangars were no longer viable and due to lack of use they atrophied a bit. In order for us to take on our new mission and be truly effective, we needed upgrades, including new doors and fire extinguishing systems and the ability to support unplanned aircraft maintenance.

The Corps is renovating two aircraft hangars – the KC-135 fuel cell hangar and the MX hangar – at the reserve to allow maintenance of this aircraft. It does this in conjunction with the Louisville District and Corps Army Corps contractor, Oddo Construction Services, LLC, of ​​East Amherst.

The KC-135 fuel cell hangar was completed by the Corps in 2019 and is being used successfully by the reserve. The structure measures 23,600 square feet – about half the area of ​​a football field – and is nearly 54 feet tall.

The MX Hangar will be completed this year and is already in use by the Air Force. The structure measures approximately 25,600 square feet and is nearly 65 feet in height.

Both hangars can hold one aircraft at a time and have received renovations that included roof repairs, overhaul and redevelopment of interior maintenance space and administrative offices, as well as upgrades to plumbing systems, heating, electricity, communication and fire alarm.

Unlike previous hangars, they are also both equipped with energy efficient features, including occupancy sensors in offices and energy recovery units to recover some of the heating and cooling energy from heating and cooling systems. air conditioning in order to reuse it.

In addition, one of the hangars has received a new fire extinguisher system and foam sprinklers, which is essential to have in a closed structure where there are flammable objects and substances.

Salvatore witnessed the importance of this new system. He said: “The installation of this system required a lot of coordination and once it was in place we had to test it with all witness parties. This required simulating a fire in the hangar. This triggered the system and dropped about 8 feet of high expansion foam into the shed. We were all relieved and excited to see the moss fall from the foam generators mounted just below the roof terrace and fill the entire hangar floor with 8 feet of white fire fighting foam. This demonstration verified that the system was working as expected. “

Salvatore, who will retire this summer after working 41 years with the Corps, feels honored that the hangars are his latest project. He said: “This project is one of the most technically involved projects I have had the opportunity to work on. There were many mechanical systems that we had to install in the hangars to provide the aviators with the tools and equipment necessary to maintain the planes they maintain.

Knapp said he and his squadron were delighted to have the proper shelter they needed to maintain their aircraft: “I’m going to tell you to move to a nice facility with a rest room, air conditioning and heating that work. most of the time – they are very happy. At the very least, I want to provide for these guys and give them a space where they can shelter from the elements. If you’ve been there in the winter, it’s brutal. They just need a place to come in and do maintenance. Now we can install an entire aircraft in the hangars and perform maintenance operations all year round. ”

Dr. JoAnne Castagna is a public affairs specialist and writer for the US Army Corps of Engineers, New York District. She can be reached at [email protected]

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