Team Whiteman bands together, restores B-2 Spirit static display
By Airman 1st Class Parker J. McCauley, 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
/ Published October 26, 2020
WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. --
Airmen with the 509th Maintenance Squadron, 131st Maintenance Squadron and the 72nd Test and Evaluation Squadron worked together to restore the famed B-2 Spirit static display and placed it back on watch on October 18, 2020 at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri.
The Low Observable corrosion section and Crash Damaged or Disabled Aircraft Recovery within Aero Repair took on the responsibility of keeping the static presentable.
“The LO flight first line of work is to prevent corrosion both on and off aircraft,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Kyle Burian, 509th MXS LO structures section chief. “The most utilized tool we use to prevent corrosion is the use of paints.”
During the last restoration in 2017, the LO section experimented to see if they could find a more cost effective and long lasting way to keep the static display looking its best.
“The last time the B-2 static display was refurbished, a vinyl wrap was utilized,” said Burian. “Unfortunately, there had been unforeseen consequences that vinyl created which included water entrapment.”
Prior to the vinyl experiment, Airmen would refinish the static up to three times a year for 1-2 weeks at a time. During cold weather the paint was difficult to cure, which led to the vinyl wrap being tested.
“It took the section a total of five weeks to complete,” said Burian. “This was to include repairing the dry rotted material, painting a primer coat, a top coat and adding the decals to make the static resemble an actual B-2 aircraft as much as possible.”
Learning from their past experiences, the LO shop decided to use a matte gray automotive paint. The color combination best mimics the color of the B-2 skin and it will also withstand years of weather and UV damage.
Due to the nature of repairs on the B-2 display, both LO and CDDAR shops were able to utilize the restoration project as a training opportunity.
“Projects, such as static displays, create a great training experience for our Airmen,” said Burian. “There are strict limitations that LO personnel have to adhere to, including paint thicknesses and smoothness requirements on the B-2 aircraft. Working on the static displays eliminates the strict deadlines and the stress of these requirements, allowing more time to be spent practicing correct coating application and honing the art of spraying coatings.”
While the restoration project provided an opportunity to train Airmen in a low stress environment, it also provided an opportunity for the 509th MXS to integrate with their counterparts from the Missouri Air National Guard in the 131st MXS.
“I have experienced force integration from both sides and can truly say that here at Whiteman, we got it figured out, said Tech. Sgt. Justin Aeckerle, 131st MXS CDDAR team chief. "It's a healthy mix of longevity with a seemingly endless wealth of knowledge that stays with the Guard, paired with the motivation and top of the line work ethic that the 509th gives forth. Together, we accomplish the mission day in and day out.”
Airmen with the 131st MXS and the 72nd TES returned the aircraft to its pedestal during the October drill weekend.
“I believe the lift went well,” said Master Sgt. Joseph Pagano, 131st MXS CDDAR team chief and AR Superintendent. “We had a few new Airmen who got to experience a team lift that will be valuable experience for them when a real aircraft lift is required. It also gave some of us that have the experience a refresh in team communication.”
Pagano was assisted in leading the lift operation by the 72nd TES.
Projects like the static display restoration, provide Airmen the opportunity to maintain pieces of Air Force history, hone their skills to perform the mission, and preserve the statics for the Air Force family of the future to enjoy.