B-1 Stab Shop finishes eight-year project

  • Published
  • By Brandice J. Armstrong
  • 72nd Air Base Wing, Public Affairs
The B-1 Stabilizer Shop recently completed an eight-year modification project to extend the life of the aging aircraft.

Concluded March 13, the process removed and replaced roughly 95 percent of the B-1B horizontal stabilizer's internal structure on the entire fleet of 77 bombers.

Located near the tail of the aircraft, the left and right horizontal stabilizers maneuver the bomber's primary flight controls.

"The original material was failing from metal fatigue caused by the stress of aircraft maneuvers in combination with sonic vibration from engine exhaust," said Brian Cole, work leader at the 76th Maintenance Wing's B-1 "Stab Shop," as it's often referred. "Numerous cracks had been discovered in the original metal substructure, which could possibly have led to an aircraft and crew being lost."

The modification process entailed removing the stabilizer's upper skin and its original internal structure. Stab Shop workers then cleaned, primed and painted the interior surface of the lower skin, replaced the internal structure and reinstalled the upper skin.

The entire process took approximately 50 days for an aircraft' s two stabilizers, and at any given time there were two to seven stabilizers in the shop.

When completed, a modified B-1 stabilizer was 32 feet long, 18 feet wide at its widest point and seven-and-a-half feet wide at its narrowest point. The modified stabilizer was also 18 inches thick.

The typical stabilizer is 28 feet long, 12 feet wide at its widest point and five feet wide at its narrowest point. It is also 18 inches thick, like the modified stabilizer.

A stabilizer after the modification process weighed about 1,800 pounds, 100 pounds more than the original, due to its thicker material, Mr. Cole said.

"The heavier material will extend the life of the aircraft and reduce the risk of failure," Mr. Cole said.

The Stab Shop is comprised of nearly 30 employees whose tenures range from six to 25 years.

While working on the modification project, the Stab Shop employees also relocated their shop from Bldg. 3001 to Bldg. 3705.

Despite the challenges, the Stab Shop finished the modifications, met its deadline and the staff began working other B-1 projects.

"At the completion of this project, it makes everyone associated with the B-1 stab project feel satisfied knowing that we have provided the warfighter with a safer, more reliable weapons system," said John Nichols, Stab Shop supervisor. "I am also very proud of my crew.

"They are a group of highly trained professionals that responded to and met the program depot maintenance scheduled delivery date with zero defects."