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Team Whiteman bands together, restores B-2 Spirit static display

The B-2 Spirit static display sits on its pedestal in front of a set of state flags.

The B-2 Spirit static display sits on its pedestal after being restored at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, Oct. 18, 2020. The 600 pound model of the B-2 was given a fresh coat of paint to replicate the look of the real aircraft and repaired by Airmen from 509th Maintenance Squadron, the 131st Maintenance Squadron, and the 72nd Test and Evaluation Squadron, after three years of weather related damage. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Parker J. McCauley)

Airmen prepare the B-2 static display to be lifted with the 50 ton crane while 131st Maintenance Group leadership observes their work.

131st Maintenance Group leadership observe Airmen with the 131st Maintenance Squadron and the 72nd Test and Evaluation Squadron, prepare to move the B-2 Spirit static display at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, Oct. 18, 2020. The Airmen used heavy duty straps and foam to lift the static safely without damaging the aircraft or its paint. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Parker J. McCauley)

Two Airmen tie off straps on the wing of the B-2 static display.

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Robert Schmeige, 72nd Test and Evaluation Squadron productions superintendent, and U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Richard Brown, 131st Maintenance Squadron aero repair crew chief, tie straps to the B-2 Spirit static display at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, Oct. 18, 2020. Airmen kept tension on the straps during the lift to keep the static stable and to support it during wind gusts. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Parker J. McCauley)

Staff Sergeant Christopher Cunningham, 131st Maintenance Squadron aero repair technician, operates a 50 ton crane to lift the B-2 static display.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Christopher Cunningham, 131st Maintenance Squadron aero repair technician, operates a 50 ton crane to lift the B-2 Spirit static display at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, Oct. 18, 2020. The restoration of the B-2 static allowed members of the 131st MXS, 509th MXS, and 72nd TES to train together. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Parker J. McCauley)

Airmen seat the B-2 static display on its pedestal in front of a set of flags.

Airmen with the 131st Maintenance Squadron and the 72nd Test and Evaluation Squadron stabilize the B-2 Spirit static display as they place it on its pedestal at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, Oct. 18, 2020. Airmen with the 509th MXS, 131st MXS and the 72nd TES worked together to restore the B-2 Spirit static display. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Parker J. McCauley)

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. --

Airmen with the 509th Maintenance Squadron, 131st Maintenance Squadron and the 72nd Test and Evaluation Squadron worked together to restore the famed B-2 Spirit static display and placed it back on watch on October 18, 2020 at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri.

The Low Observable corrosion section and Crash Damaged or Disable Aircraft Recovery within Aero Repair took on the responsibility of keeping the static presentable.

“The LO flight first line of work is to prevent corrosion both on and off aircraft,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Kyle Burian, 509th MXS LO structures section chief. “The most utilized tool we use to prevent corrosion is the use of paints.”

During the last restoration in 2017, the LO section experimented to see if they could find a more cost effective and long lasting way to keep the static display looking its best.

“The last time the B-2 static display was refurbished, a vinyl wrap was utilized,” said Burian. “Unfortunately, there had been unforeseen consequences that vinyl created which included water entrapment.”
Prior to the vinyl experiment, Airmen would refinish the static up to three times a year for 1-2 weeks at a time. During cold weather the paint was difficult to cure, which led to the vinyl wrap being tested.

“It took the section a total of 5 weeks to complete,” said Burian. “This was to include repairing the dry rotted material, painting a primer coat, a top coat and adding the decals to make the static resemble an actual B-2 aircraft as much as possible.”

Learning from their past experiences, the LO shop decided to use a matte gray automotive paint. The color combination best mimics the color of the B-2 skin and it will also withstand years of weather and UV damage.

Due to the nature of repairs on the B-2 display, both LO and CDDAR shops were able to utilize the restoration project as a training.

“Projects, such as static display, create a great training experience for our Airman,” said Burian. “There are strict limitations that LO personnel have to adhere to, including paint thicknesses and smoothness requirements on the B-2 aircraft. Working on the static displays eliminate the strict deadlines and the stress of these requirements, allowing more time to be spent practicing correct coating application and honing the art of spraying coatings.”

While the restoration project provided an opportunity to train Airmen in a low stress environment, it also provided an opportunity for the 509th MXS to integrate with their counterparts from the Missouri Air National Guard, at the 131st MXS.

“I have experienced force integration from both sides and can truly say that here at Whiteman, we got it figured out,” said Tech. Sgt. Justin Aeckerle, 131st MXS CDDAR team chief. “It’s a healthy mix of longevity with a seemingly endless wealth of knowledge that stays with the guard paired with the motivation and top of the line work ethic that the 509th gives forth. Together we accomplish the mission day in and day out.”

Airmen with the 131st MXS and the 72nd TES returned the aircraft to its pedestal during the October drill weekend.

“I believe the lift went well,” said Master Sgt. Joseph Pagano, 131st MXS CDDAR team chief and AR Superintendent. “We had a few new Airmen that got to experience a team lift that will be valuable experience for them when a real aircraft lift is required. It also gave some of us that have the experience a refresh in team communication.”

Pagano was assisted in leading the lift operation by the 72nd TES.

Projects like the static display restoration, provide Airmen the opportunity to maintain pieces of Air Force history, hone their skills to perform the mission, and preserve the statics for the Air Force family of the future to enjoy.