New state-of-the-art facility enhances wing’s capabilities

  • Published
  • By by Tech. Sgt. Tamara Dabney
  • 103rd Airlift Wing

Airmen of the 103rd Airlift Wing, along with Connecticut state officials and guests, gathered to celebrate the opening of a new fuel cell and corrosion control facility during a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Bradley Air National Guard Base July 26, 2017.

The 29,600 square foot facility, with its cutting-edge aircraft maintenance equipment, is among the most state-of-the-art fuel cell hangars in the Air National Guard. The facility meets the latest Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards and will support the Connecticut Air National Guard’s fleet of eight C-130 Hercules aircraft.

After the 103rd Airlift Wing acquired C-130s and transitioned to a tactical airlift mission in 2013, construction of the new fuel cell hangar became a necessity.

“We needed a safe place to do fuel cell maintenance,” said Staff Sgt. Erich Buhagiar, an aircraft fuel systems specialist assigned to the 103rd Maintenance Squadron. “There are breathing control apparatuses that enable us to go inside tanks without breathing toxic vapors. Tanks are vented properly and, unlike some fuel cells that we’ve worked in, there is excellent climate control.”

Before the fuel cell hangar was built, Airmen of the 103rd Maintenance Squadron had to travel to various fuel cells across the country to diagnose and repair fuel system malfunctions; the process of getting the unit’s C-130s ready to deploy was cumbersome and very costly.

"Facilities were a major shortfall when we had to go off-station just to do fuel work,” said Maj. Cheryl Mead, 103rd Maintenance Operations Flight Commander. “We had to work days, nights and holidays and have an all-in mentality to have the planes flying to the desert on-time. Now we don’t have to do that.”

With the construction of the new fuel cell and corrosion control facility, the 103rd Airlift Wing will now be capable of meeting operational and training needs more quickly and efficiently. However, according to Buhagiar, the greatest benefit may be the valuable time the unit’s aircraft maintainers will gain by not having to travel as much.

For two years, I was constantly traveling and living out of a suitcase,” said Buhagiar. “After a while, all the traveling starts to wear on you. Now that we don’t have to travel all over the country to use other fuel cells to do our job, maintainers can spend more time training together and we’ll be able to understand the aircraft better. I’m also able to spend more time with my family.”