Kadena's new rinsing facility leaves jets salt-free
Stars and Stripes August 5, 2006
KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — A new rinsing area for aircraft opened on Kadena this week, alleviating some of the bothersome noise and water overspray that has irked the base’s northern neighbors, and streamlining operations for F-15 jets.
The Japanese government ponied up 130 million yen, or about $1.1 million, to build a facility that’s more efficient for smaller aircraft than the large one on the north side of base.
“The driving factor for the Japanese government was the noise and the overspray,” said Paul Townsend, chief of government of Japan design and construction for the air base.
Some residents of adjacent Kadena town have grumbled for years that the original aircraft maintenance operation was too loud and doused their neighborhood with dirty water. Moving the rinse operation for small aircraft to the other side of base should help reduce both issues, Townsend said.
The Air Force, which needs to rinse its aircraft — with just water, not detergent — to prevent corrosion from salt water, started using the new facility on Wednesday. It’s on the south side of the runway.
Maj. Jeff Klein, 18th Operations Support Squadron, said the move eliminates the 15- to 20-minute taxi time needed to go the two kilometers from the north facility to the fighter-jet parking area on the south side, which in turn limits noise and saves fuel.
Townsend said the Air Force has wanted a separate rinse facility tailored for fighter jets since the large facility was built in the early 1990s.
The Air Force has been working with the Japanese government for more than decade to get it done.
The large facility isn’t sized or timed for fighter jets so it did an inadequate job rinsing the planes and wasted water, Klein said.
The new rinse system takes only about 40 seconds to give an almost 360-degree rinse for smaller aircraft. It reaches areas the larger system would miss on fighter jets, eliminating the need for three maintenance people to wash the jets by hand and saving at least 30 minutes, according to Capt. Pete Leija, 67th Aircraft Maintenance Unit.
The old facility still will be used by wide-body aircraft, such as the KC-135 air refuelers, until a replacement can be built in another area of base. That project is in the works but awaits funding tentatively planned for 2007, Townsend said. Construction is estimated to take six months to a year.