Maintainers apply heritage markings to wing's oldest aircraft

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Curtis J. Lenz
  • 157th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Members of the 157th Maintenance Group painted special heritage markings last October on one of the unit's KC-135 Stratotankers to rejuvenate the group espirit de corps.

The idea was the brainchild of Tech. Sgt. A. (Marshall) Ricciotti, a former 157th Maintenance Group crew chief who is currently in pilot training commissioning as a second lieutenant at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma.

The markings, applied to aircraft 57-1430, include what is called a "fish hook" with the text "N.H. Air Guard" on the fuselage as well as stylized markings on the engine cowlings called "scallops."

According to Ricciotti, similar markings were on other N.H. ANG aircraft such as the C-97 and earlier models of the KC-135.

The cowling markings are similar to those from the KC-135E models during 1983-1986.

Ricciotti credits Lt. Col. Paul Kell, Capt. Michael Schafferkoetter, Tech. Sgts. Phillip Carter and Mike Fillettaz, Master Sgts. John Bober and Ed Chaisson for accomplishing this project.

"The aircraft would not have been painted without help from each of these Airmen," said Ricciotti.

According to Carter, 157 MXG crew chief, the markings were applied while the aircraft was down for maintenance so the mission was not impacted.

Airmen from the Aircraft Structural Maintenance section worked together with flight line personnel to stencil the aircraft.

"Both teams sanded the areas requiring paint and wiped them with aircraft cleaner prior to paint application," said Tech Sgt. Andrew Morrison, 157th Aircraft Structural Maintenance, craftsman, who worked with Airman 1st Class Chris Gaudet on the engine cowlings. "We had approximately two and a half days of preparation work [stenciling, sanding, wiping] and two hours of painting."

Together the team unveiled the completed project.

"The unveiling was a group wide effort to remove all the stencil and masking material to show the final product," Morrison said.

Other Air National Guard units from Arizona, Michigan and Ohio have featured specialized markings.

Ricciotti credited Senior Airman Joe Dipalma, Airman 1st Class Connor Cunio, Airman 1st Class Adam Carrigan, and Tech. Sgt. Phillip Carter for their work on the fuselage.

Ricciotti also recognized Kell for his support to the effort. 

"If it wasn't for Lt. Col. Paul Kell, this would have never happened," he said.

Ricciotti hopes the wing's new aircraft, the KC-46 Pegasus, can receive similar art after it arrives in 2018.

Organizers all believe that heritage and unit pride are an important part of this project.

"The Airmen I supervised coming in one weekend a month don't understand that at Pease we have continued to keep KC-135s in the air since Friday morning, Aug. 15, 1975," said Ricciotti.  "That is 41 consecutive years of taking the same airframe and doing the mission as best we can."

Col. James Ryan, 157th Air Refueling Wing commander, highlighted this effort as the latest example of Airmen making this a better unit.

"Since assuming command of this organization earlier this year, I am even more amazed by the professionalism serving in the New Hampshire Air National Guard," said Ryan. "Their commitment to service is deeply rooted in our core values."

Aircraft 57-430 is currently the fourth oldest aircraft in the Air Force inventory, having debuted June 18, 1958 and first flown July 11 of the same year. The aircraft was delivered to the Air Force on July 31, 1958. 

"It is very easy to get lost in our daily grind and not realize at least three generations of New Hampshire Airmen have put blood sweat and tears into our KC-135 aircraft and our mission here at Pease", said Ricciotti. "It's easy to come to work and leave after eight hours but it takes a bit more to be truly proud of your product at the end of the day."