Peeling paintwork on C-17

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Aircraft Surface Finisher Corporal Kelvin Green painting tail art on a C-130H Hercules aircraft. (Defence)

A keen eye, a strong theory and the guts to report the problem to superiors enabled Corporal Green to solve an issue of faulty painting processes on the RAAF’s C-17A Globemasters – saving costly repair work, even compromised air capabilities of the Air Force’s global air lift aircraft.

CPL Green’s efforts resulted in the Aircraft Surface Finisher receiving a Conspicuous Service Medal at this year’s Australia Day Honours List. Aircraft Surface Finisher CPL Kelvin Green noticed a serious problem with the paintwork of several C-17A Globemasters. Being freshly posted to 36 Squadron however, he didn’t have any evidence until he serviced an aircraft that had only been painted three months prior.

“We already had aircraft that had been through this servicing [from the USA] that were in bad condition already and I just kept thinking there was something not quite right.. but I didn’t have the evidence to back it up until I had a new aircraft come from the States,” CPL Green said.

“An aircraft came back from a repaint and it had been back in the country for about three months. “We had to do another servicing on it and while I was doing my routine checks, I noticed the paint had started to deteriorate already which I thought was unusual because it was fairly new, so I looked at it in more detail.. I went around the whole aeroplane and I took pictures and I could tell what was wrong with it.. I looked at different panels of the aircraft and I could tell what was wrong with the paint by looking at it and what was causing those problems.

“[The paint] wasn’t sticking to the air craft very well. I believe there was a multitude of problems.. it’s a big aircraft to try and look at every tiny detail and sometimes they’re missed.”
Writing a post-service mandatory report, CPL Green decided to include what was wrong in certain areas, his theories about what could have gone wrong and how he would fix it.
That report resulted in a team of engineers and scientists from Boeing to visit RAAF Amberley and test out CPL Green’s theories.

“I was super nervous, I cannot tell you how incredibly nervous I was,” CPL Green said.

His theories proved correct, and No. 86 Wing sent him to America to see the changes he proposed in action on a C-17A Globemaster.

“The contractor made significant changes to their processes in the States and so far the aircraft we’ve been getting back from them have been really good,” he said.

CPL Green’s intervention not only saves the RAAF from unnecessary and expensive repairs, but potentially prevented a catastrophe from occurring in the sky.

“Think of your car, except [a C-17A Globemaster] costs $280 million plus dollars,” he said.

“If you scratch your car or if a shopping trolley hits your car and you don’t repair that area, it corrodes and goes rusty.

“That’s the same with an aircraft except an aircraft flies at 37,000 plus feet, and it can have catastrophic consequences if those areas break, crack or fall off.

“It’s also about the capabilities, if we get the aircraft fixed over in the States and then we bring it back and three months later we have to fix it again, it’s not flying.

“It’s all about keeping them flying for longer.”

CPL Green who has been with the RAAF for ten years and was previously in the RAF for almost 13 years said he was gobsmacked just by the nomination of the Conspicuous Service Medal.

“This is the first big award [for me],” he said.

“When I first got nominated, I got a letter in the post but I didn’t know I had been nominated so I was gobsmacked. I was absolutely honoured just to be nominated.. our mustering in the Air Force is so small, so for one of us to be nominated for an award, let alone win was an absolute honour.”