LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
In January, 2016, there were 38 T-6 aircraft that hadn’t seen the skies in more than 30 days on Laughlin Air Force Base. Those 38 aircraft categorized as “hangar queens.” Eight of those 38 aircraft haven’t flown in over three years, with one nearing five years being non-mission capable.
In a year and a half, Laughlin has cut that number down to the lowest number of T-6 hangar queens in any of Air Education and Training Command’s wings with only one downed aircraft – and it’s thanks to Team XL’s maintainers.
“There was a culture in AETC where hangar queens weren’t the highest priority,” said Charles Webb, 47th Maintenance Directorate deputy director. “Hangar queens built up, and there wasn’t a concerted effort to shrink those hangar queens down.”
Webb explained that from a maintainer’s standpoint, a maintenance shop would never want even a single downed aircraft.
“When you have 38 aircraft that have been broken and on the ground for more than 30 days, it’s almost demoralizing,” Webb said. “You’ve got so many of them, and it’s overwhelming. You try to build one up and get it flying, but then a couple more [aircraft] go over 30 days on the ground, so you feel like you’re not making any progress. So it takes an aggressive leader that says ‘we’re going to tackle this problem.’”
As Laughlin began to take a more aggressive stance on the restoration of hangar queens it started a trend across AETC to start fixing and flying these downed aircraft, said Webb.
Now, with Laughlin getting hangar queens out of the hangar and into the skies, approximately $160 million in aircraft assets are being used again.
Webb said, to put it in perspective, Randolph Air Force Base is Laughlin’s closest competitor when it comes to T-6 hangar queens; Randolph has about three or four, and Laughlin has one.
“Having three or four hangar queens isn’t alarming, but they have a much smaller fleet,” said Webb. “What’s remarkable is having 103 aircraft and one hangar queen.”
“The job was a lesson on how team work can make things happen,” said Roberto Sandoval, 47th MX T-6 division chief. “It was hard, tedious and [came with] many headaches.”
Sandoval said that even under immense pressure, the maintenance team stayed focused and performed at the top of their game.
“Sometimes we had to use the ‘heavy hitters’ to get to the front of the line to get what we needed to put these aircraft back together,” he said.
Sandoval said that the team is excited and ready to finally knock the last of the T-6 hangar queens out.
“Every time we took one off the list it was always something that we all took pride in,” Sandoval said. “Now we are down to one, and that will be a great day when we fly it and get out of the hangar queen business.”