185th Career Spotlight: Aircraft Hydraulics

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Rich Murphy
  • 185th Public Affairs
The hydraulic shop at the 185th Air Refueling Wing (ARW) repairs and maintains the hydraulic systems of the 60-year-old KC-135. Whether it is the flight control surfaces or the refueling boom, all of the moving parts on the aircraft are affected by the hydraulic system.

Tech Sgt. Chris Fergen, a hydraulic mechanic at the 185th and a Class of 2003 Graduate from East High in Sioux City, Iowa, has been working on KC-135 hydraulics for the past ten years. "Other than wire repair, we work just about every part of the aircraft. It was a bit intimidating at first, but after a little training and a lot of practice, you really get to understand how the aircraft work, and it is pretty amazing."

Hydraulic maintenance is one of the most critical elements on the KC-135, which means at least one of the maintainers will be sent with the aircraft as it deploys around the world. Fergen has been deployed to locations such as Qatar, Turkey, Japan, Germany, Spain, Guam, and Hawaii. He says, "If you want to see the world, this is the career field to be in. You will definitely get a chance to travel."

The hydraulic system on the KC-135 contains two separate hydraulic systems that supply pressurized hydraulic fluid to hydraulic components such as the main landing gear, nose landing gear, air refueling boom, and flight controls. The hydraulic fluid can be pressurized up to 6,000 psi, enough pressure to cause serious damage to parts, equipment, and people.

Potential hydraulic mechanics attend a nine week training where they learn the basics of hydraulic systems. They attend a two-week boom maintenance and repair school to apply the basics of the hydraulic systems to the KC-135.

The ideal candidate for this job, says Fergen, is someone with a basic mechanical mind and is not afraid to get dirty. "In our job, we know when we start working we will get dirty. If you can't deal with getting your hands and uniform dirty, this may not be the job for you."

While hydraulic maintenance training is specialized to the aircraft, trained hydraulic mechanics can be exceptionally valuable outside of the military. When paired with an A&P license, traditional Guard members can get into similar careers working for commercial airlines. In addition, the hydraulic training can helpful in fields such as agriculture, aviation, and manufacturing.

For more information about this and other career fields at the 185th Air Refueling Wing, contact the 185th Recruiters at (712) 233-0411 or visit http://www.goang.com.

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