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SJ Airmen provide valuable service to N.C. forest department

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Victoria Boyton
  • 4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

The daily routine for the 4th Equipment Maintenance Squadron corrosion control shop usually consists of paint repairs and inspections of more than 90 F-15E Strike Eagles and more than 600 pieces of equipment. 

However, the opportunity arose for members of 4th EMS to support the North Carolina Forest Service aviation division recently.


Members of the corrosion control shop painted two T-34C Turbo Mentor planes for the NCFS aviation division. The freshly painted planes were unveiled during a ceremony April 21 after two weeks of work.


“The NCFS uses the planes any time we’re requested to a fire,” said Robert Delleo, NCFS aviation division director. “They lead the single engine air tankers over fires so the tankers can drop a suppressant on the fire.”


The NCFS aviation unit was launched 23 times during fire season in 2016 with a total of 264 drops, Delleo said. They have already been launched 13 times this year.


The previous aircraft used as lead planes were unable to keep up with the turbine powered air tanker. The two turbine powered T-34Cs replaced the piston powered T-34B Mentor lead aircraft, Delleo said.


“Both aircraft were previous U.S. Navy trainers and still had the military decals,” said Tech. Sgt. Tim Fox, 4th EMS corrosion manager. “The NCFS needed them converted to the paint scheme used by their tankers and lead aircraft. While the NCFS has an aircraft maintenance section, they do not have a paint facility.”


Fox added the NCFS provided all of the materials, and the 4th EMS corrosion control shop provided the labor.

Fourteen members of the 4th EMS corrosion control shop worked two separate shifts to complete the painting project.


“I’m used to following general paint schemes and standard decal locations,” said Airman 1st Class Joseph Zorn, 4th EMS aircraft structural maintenance technician, who helped paint the planes. “With the T-34s, we had to figure out all of the design locations and angles by hand. We even used strings at one point to make perfectly straight lines.”


Zorn added the aircraft were painted using gloss paint, which required a much different spraying technique, but said in the end he gained knowledge of various painting techniques.


“The technical capability to paint the aircraft was beyond anything we anticipated,” Delleo said. “We’re really impressed with the hospitality we received. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.”


The unveiling ceremony included members signing the inside panel of the aircraft, congratulatory handshakes, and the NCFS presenting the Airmen with coins.


“These planes will enhance the NCFS’s ability to contain wildfires in the forests and communities of central North Carolina,” Fox said. “Seymour Johnson AFB is a part of that community, so it helps us all.”