Coraopolis, PA --
Piles of debris lay on the ground. Piles of debris lay on the ground. Workers strip the walls bare down to concrete block. What was once a busy maintenance hub is now unrecognizable. Heavy demolition equipment sits in place of a KC-135 to begin the first steps of the future.
The 171st Air Refueling Wing is in the process of a multimillion-dollar infrastructure renovation to Hangar 301 and 302 in Coraopolis, Pa., which formally began in December 2017.
“It’s a full internal renovation of both hangars 301, 302 and 302A,” said Capt. Matthew Saccone, the Deputy Base Civil Engineer with the 171st Civil Engineer Squadron.
The hangars will undergo $24 million worth of renovations making this the largest Pennsylvania Air National Guard project since 2003 and the largest Pennsylvania National Guard project since 2013. The project was so large it required congressional approval at both the state and national level.
Currently, the project is in the initial demolition stage, which includes drywall demolition, masonry demotion, utility identification and demolition. Workers will be demolishing and removing all interior infrastructure down to the supportive concrete shell of the hangars. Hangar exterior renovations were completed in 2014, but mechanical improvements and interior renovations remained untouched.
Areas of focus for improvement are personnel offices, training rooms, changing areas, restrooms and breakrooms. The restoration will improve working conditions for over 10 maintenance shops including Communications, Aircraft Structural Maintenance, Munitions, Quality Assurance and many others. Upon completion, the hangars will have the capacity to house and support all maintenance functions, even those that were previously separated, such as Jet Engine Maintenance.
Workers will add a new mechanical room this spring to support utility functions such as water, heating and electricity to both hangars. Additionally, workers will be updating the hangars to meet modern anti-terrorism requirements, which includes being up to code on parking, structural integrity and blast protection. Other safety improvements include an update on the hangars’ fire suppression system to include additional suppression tanks and a new pumping system.
Prior to breaking any ground, the 171st CES worked for three years with personnel from the 171st Maintenance Squadron to complete a design. Requests from many representatives of each shop were considered for design topics, such as room placement, size and accessibility. The intent was to fulfill as many requests as possible, resulting in a design that meets the needs of our Airmen.
“It was through input from maintenance personnel that we got where we got here,” said Saccone.
Unfortunately, the renovations come at a time when CES is short-staffed due to many Airmen being deployed. Airmen such as Capt. Shanna Denny, a Bioenvironmental Engineer with the 171st Medical Group have stepped into roles to fill the vacancies for the project. The working relationship with local contractors has helped ensure a smooth process and strong partnership.
“It would be a challenge to complete this project if we had our full manning but we are happy to have this opportunity to ultimately make our wing better,” said Saccone.
The 67-year-old hangars have housed seven types of fighter jets, five types of air transportation jets, and two types of air refueling aircraft. The updated facility will allow the 171st to continue its global mission of inflight refueling for Department of Defense aircraft.
The project will move forward with the next phase of construction this coming fall. The estimated timeframe for completion is 2020.