(Via Ho’okele News)
Story and photo by Staff Sgt. Alexander Martinez
15th Wing Public Affairs
In an effort to preserve a part of Hickam’s history and legacy, the four static aircraft displays on O’Malley Boulevard are undergoing an extensive, on-the-spot restoration.
With the 15th Wing tasked as the caretaker of the aircraft, the 15th Maintenance Squadron’s (15th MXS) structural maintenance section is the unit assigned to ensure the aircraft are maintained structurally and aesthetically, a job that can be quite the challenge in Hawaii’s tropical environment.
“This is a highly corrosive environment, so in order for us to keep the aircraft on display and safe for public viewing it’s important to maintain the aircraft,” said Master Sgt. Jose Hidalgo, 15th MXS structural maintenance section chief.
“Just how it’s important for us to take care of our current and operational aircraft, it’s just as important for us to take care of these historical aircraft.”
Hickam personnel driving on O’Malley will notice a blocked-off work area around the aircraft during their restoration, but the restorations will not impact traffic. John Puu, 15th MXS sheet metal mechanic supervisor, said the aircraft will be restored on-site in order to avoid any additional issues.
“One of the reasons we’re doing the restorations onthe-spot is to avoid impacting traffic by moving the aircraft,” Puu said. “Also, with the age of the aircraft, moving them to a different location could pose additional structural issues.”
The process of restoring the aircraft involves many specialists who will do their respective parts of the job.
“It’s a large logistical effort,” Puu said. “It’s not the [restoration] part that is difficult, but the challenge of logistics and coordinating everyone’s role.”
Even with logistical challenges, Hidalgo said everyone involved is excited to be part of such a project.
“Our guys are excited to do this,” Hidalgo said. “It’s restoring history, and they will take pride in what they do here. I think it will show when they’re done.”
The project will be in four stages with one aircraft restored at a time, beginning with the F-4 Phantom II. The first stage of the restoration on the F-4 is scheduled to be completed in February 2015. The completion date of restoring all aircraft is to be determined. Visitors of the area are cautioned to stay out of the cordoned-off restoration area for their safety.