VRS snow team critical to flightline

by Senior Airman Katherine Holt
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Five months. That’s how long the 86th Vehicle Readiness Squadron’s 14-man snow team has to prepare 35 vehicles for the winter.

Summer rebuild consists of the repair of vehicles including aircraft de-icers, snow brooms, snow plows and salt spreaders. It began May 1 and runs until Sept. 30.

“Summer rebuild is our opportunity to restore the fleet after a harsh winter in preparation for the upcoming winter,” said Staff Sgt. Aaron Merseal, 86th VRS seasonal equipment NCOIC. “During summer rebuild we cover everything from regular maintenance to electrical maintenance to running new hoses in the booms of the de-icers.”

A two-man team is assigned to a vehicle. The repairs take, on average, 60 hours per vehicle.

“Some of the maintenance we do on these vehicles is as simple as an oil change,” said Airman 1st Class Carlos Limon, 86th VRS vehicle and vehicular equipment maintenance journeyman. “Other maintenance, like repairs to the electrical system, takes a little longer.”

Limon is in his third summer rebuild and added that most damage is done by natural wear and tear and the extremity of the winter. This year, the snow team is also doing a dispensing system and air plus upgrade on all global aircraft de-icers. This will put less stress on the air plus system and allow for deicing to use less fluid.

“De-icer fluid runs about $12 a gallon,” Merseal added. “These upgrades equal less long-term maintenance and tax dollars saved.”

Summer rebuild is just the beginning. When the threat of frost begins, the snow team will go to 24-hour operations to ensure the flightline is ready at all times.

“Without these vehicles operating correctly in winter months, there would be no flightline operations,” Merseal said. “Proper maintenance and operation is crucial to keeping the aircraft in the air.”

Responding to maintenance calls for winter vehicles on the flightline is not the only thing the snow team is trained for.

“Even though we specialize in the seasonal vehicles, we are trained to make minor repairs to all vehicles,” Limon said. “When we go to 24-hour (operations), we are on call for all mobile calls in the KMC.”

Depending on the availability of parts, repairs could be completed in a couple of hours.

“As long as we have the ability to repair the vehicle we are called out to, we don’t have to rely on any other specialty shop,” Merseal said.

Merseal said the team is on schedule for the Sept. 30 completion date, but they agree that come Sept. 1, the pressure is on.