Members of the 8th Maintenance Squadron Fabrication Flight Corrosion Control Element prepare an F-16 for painting in the new "paint barn."

Members of the 8th Maintenance Squadron Fabrication Flight Corrosion Control Element prepare an F-16 for painting in the new "paint barn." (Courtesy of USAF)

TAEGU, South Korea — Back when Senior Airman Bobby McKenzie would do touch-up paint work on mammoth B-52 bombers in Louisiana, the hangar got so hot his sweat would get in the paint and make the job harder.

“The lighting was inadequate,” said McKenzie, now stationed at Kunsan Air Base with the 8th Maintenance Squadron. “You might think you already painted it … When you open up the hangar doors … you can see all the spots you missed.”

So McKenzie — who these days does paint and body work on Kunsan’s 8th Fighter Wing’s F-16 jets — is among those glad for the base’s new, high-tech, aircraft paint shop.

Airmen call the facility, which opened June 6, a “paint barn.” Features including ample lighting, computerized temperature controls, a modern air filter system and others items mean paint crews will be spared the hassles McKenzie endured.

The paint barn is actually an enclosed structure installed inside a hangar undergoing a $2.6 million renovation. The hangar, Building 2820, houses the 8th Maintenance Squadron’s corrosion control and painting shops.

“It provides us with a state-of-the-art paint capability, gives us a better overall paint job,” said Master Sgt. Christopher Dearman of the 8th Maintenance Squadron.

“Painting is just a tricky business,” he said, noting temperature and humidity affect the drying process known as “curing.” The best conditions for aircraft painting are temperatures from 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit and relative humidity from 60 percent to 80 percent, he said.

The barn “just controls the environment,” Dearman said. “You can … dictate the conditions under which you paint.”

Another benefit is the air filter system, which expels paint fumes and harmful chemicals outside the hangar in an environmentally safe form.

And the lighting’s good, said McKenzie. “So you can see all your imperfections, anything that might need to be re-sanded a little bit more, one spot might be a little lighter than the other,” he said.

The Air Force requires jets like those at Kunsan to be painted every three years. But before the paint barn was available, six jets became overdue for new paint, said Staff Sgt. Christopher Bartels, 8th Maintenance Battalion corrosion control section day shift supervisor.

But that backlog soon will be cleared.

“Having a new spray booth is a lot easier,” he said. “We got one of the six done, and we’ve got another one the week after Fourth of July. It makes the base happy, you get all the planes done” and fighter squadrons get “a product they like: a freshly painted plane.”

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