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Behind the Lines: Painting planes a patriotic duty | News

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Behind the Lines: Painting planes a patriotic duty
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People recognize the grayish-blue of Air Force aircraft around the world.

Many of those planes get their trademark color inside hangars at Robins Air Force Base.

The people in the Corrosion Control shop call it their patriotic duty to put a top notch coat of paint on every plane.

Inside Building 89, the hands of a 20-man crew fly over, around, and under the body of a C-130 aircraft.

Its makeover in the paint shop is the last stop before she returns from maintenance to duty.

"We take a lot of pride in making sure the plane does look good," says painter Tim Davis.

Davis compares it to an industrial-sized arts and crafts operation replete with stencils and an armory of paint. However, the job lacks the safety of an 8x10 canvas and brush strokes.

"It can be a very dangerous process," says Terry Lowe.

Lowe says a lot of the action happens 30 feet off the ground.

"45 to 50, once you get to the very top," says Davis.

Not to mention the plane sways.

Davis explains, "You feel the movement of the plane because it's sitting on its struts. It's bouncing just like it would if it was sitting out on the runway."

Then, there's the chemicals involved. Electromagnetic guns spray a paint that works like a magnet.

Ronnie Harrell says before the new coat of color goes on, the old comes off, or rather oozes off.

A powerful chemical eats away at it. High powered pressure washers finish the drill.

"I relate my job to being like a coach on a football field," says he says.

Harrell, a supervisor, moves his men across every inch, no crack, no cranny left uncovered.

Terry Lowe says, "May seem like a lot of confusion. You have people everywhere."

Their meticulous work seals out corrosion, lengthening the life of the aircraft, and if the job's not done right, the Air Force will know. The crew inks their signature on every one.

"That marking is to let everyone in the world know where this great aircraft was painted. That's Robins Air Force Base," says Davis. "There is a sense of patriotic duty that I feel when I'm painting this aircraft, because for me, this is my America. This my airplane."

And Davis says there's no detail too small, no job too big to support those who serve.

"That's what makes it all worthwhile," Davis says.

Painting and detailing the aircraft takes about a week. Each C-130 needs about 150 of those stencils before leaving the hangar and going back into service.


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