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    P-38G Lightning under restoration

    P-38G Lightning restoration

    Photo By Tech. Sgt. Sheila deVera | Air Force Senior Airman Kurtis Steinecke (left) and Airman 1st Class Jonathan...... read more read more



    Story by Tech. Sgt. Sheila deVera 

    Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Public Affairs   

    For almost a year, the P-38G Lightning was noticeably missing from the Heritage Park. Over time, people wondered where it went and when it would reappear in its rightful place.

    The P-38 is currently being restored and repainted with the help of Airmen from the Aircraft Structural Maintenance unit assigned to the 3rd Maintenance Squadron. The ASM Airmen preserve the structure of aircraft, paint, and fabricate sheet metals and tubing to replace worn or damaged parts, for all active and static-display aircraft.

    “The restoration program is to fully refurbish the aircraft close to its original design,” said Air Force Master Sgt. Sarah Jornacion, 3rd MXS nondestructive inspection section chief. “It is not just a display, but preserving the heritage of the aircraft, and that’s what we do as maintainers. We take pride in bringing it back to its glory.”

    To get to where they currently are, there were a lot of steps to restoring the P-38. These steps included moving and towing it inside a hangar. They also took multiple high-definition images, extensive notes, and measurements of the decals, and put the information into a computer.

    Once the data was in the system, a team of four Airmen spent three eight-hour shifts to sand, wash and remove residue from the aircraft. Before applying primer and paint, the Airmen methodically applied protection to surfaces not being painted.

    “It’s been a complicated process,” said Tech. Sgt. Matt Monnens, 3rd MXS aircraft structural maintenance chief lead. “The Air Force switched over to flat paint to all active aircraft, [but] most of the historical aircraft are high-gloss paint. When gloss paint is applied, attention to detail is key, because any flaws underneath can be easily seen.”

    Monnens added little details are significant because veterans who had worked on or flown the Lightning would notice a slight change to the aircraft, so it was imperative for the Airmen to make sure to make it look realistic as possible.

    “The paint scheme is a lot harder than it looks because of its two-tone color pattern,” said Tech. Sgt. Renee Peaper, 3rd MXS aircraft structural maintenance craftsman. “It has been a struggle for us to replicate the original paint scheme. Even our most talented painters have had difficulty because of all the obstacles we were running into [such as finding the right color-scheme].”

    Master Sgt. Richard Mabry, 3rd MXS aircraft structural maintenance section chief, said more than 30 individuals contributed to the restoration of the aircraft.

    Senior Airman Kurtis Steinecke and Airman 1st Class Jonathan Torres-Zayas, both assigned to ASM, are putting the final details on the aircraft before it returns to its original home.

    “This is a big team effort,” Mabry said. “Through ups and downs such as low manning, work constraints at the flight line and the challenging paint job, the Airmen continued to focus and work together as a team.”

    Steinecke had the opportunity to show the aircraft to a family member who happened to trace it to their father who had flown the P-38 during World War II.

    “The family member was visiting Alaska and wanted to visit the Heritage Park because the family member’s father flew the aircraft that was on display,” Mabry said. “They had a brother who had their father’s flight log and traced it back to JBER, and the tail number happened to match the [one here].”

    Regardless of the unfinished aircraft, the ASM granted the family’s request to see the aircraft and pay tribute to their dad.

    Steinecke and Torres-Zaya said it’s also important for them to finish this project because they are putting a stamp on the only G model in existence; the JBER plane is one of fewer than 30 P-38s remaining in the world. It is also one of only nine aircraft listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

    “It gives us the chance to be part of the bigger picture that everybody sees and not just the maintenance,” said Steinecke. “It’s not only us; it was a big team effort to get to this point close to the finish line.”

    Steinecke and Torres-Zayas shared the same sentiments that when it comes to this aircraft, there is no room for error and that perfection is the key.



    Date Taken: 07.25.2017
    Date Posted: 07.25.2017 12:07
    Story ID: 242476
    Location: JBER, AK, US

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