New Schoolhouse for Trainer Jet Maintainers Opens in Texas

Nineteenth Air Force has transformed Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph’s Hangar 62 into an official hub for teaching the next generation of trainer aircraft maintainers.

The 19th Air Force Maintenance Training Center, which the numbered Air Force opened on Oct. 29, will serve as a schoolhouse where students learn the basics of caring for AETC’s main training aircraft—the T-1A Jayhawk, the T-6A Texan II, and the T-38A Talon, a 502nd Air Base Wing release stated. It will also offer “more advanced courses such as avionics and jet propulsion,” the release adds.

The center’s activation marks the first time the Texas base has had a formal program for molding new trainer aircraft mechanics since the 1990s.

“We’re reinvesting in our foundational skills to take great care of our Airmen who fly, who fix, who fight for our country,” 19AF Commander Maj. Gen. Craig D. Wills said during the activation ceremony.

Ruben Pesina of the 12th Maintenance Group repairs a panel from a T-38C Talon aircraft during a phase inspection at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas. A trainer aircraft maintenance training center in Hangar 62 at the base will soon be producing a new generation of trainer aircraft technicians to serve Air Education and Training Command. Photo: Steve Elliott/USAF

In the 1980s, the Air Force decided that fixing trainer planes was “a commercial activity,” and delegated the tasking away from the Active-duty Airmen to civilians.

“Maintenance duties were turned over to a civilian force consisting of those Air Force-trained technicians who retired or separated from the service,” the wing explained in an Oct. 16 release.

Formal schooling for those maintainers at Randolph subsequently ended in 1995, the wing said.

Enough trained repairmen were available to tend to AETC’s airframes in the absence of an Active-duty workforce, the wing wrote. But since many of these people have retired or are preparing to do so, the new center will equip 19th AF to fill the manpower shortage created by their departures.

“In addition to producing technicians for the 12th Flying Training Wing at JBSA-Randolph and Naval Air Station Pensacola, [Fla.], the training center will serve maintenance units for the flying training wings at Columbus Air Force Base, [Miss.]; Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas; Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas; and Vance Air Force Base, [Okla.],” the wing wrote.

The new center is also speeding up and formalizing the education process by trading unstructured, on-the-job training for course-based learning, explained Brian Bastow, logistics management branch chief for 19AF’s logistics directorate.

The center’s courses will begin in the coming weeks, the wing wrote. Hundreds of students are expected to train through the center each year, Bastow said.

Brian Bastow, Logistics Management Branch chief for 19th Air Force’s Directorate of Logistics, cuts a ribbon held by Chris Padeni, 19th AF maintenance training superintendent (right), and Dean Jeavons, 19th AF maintenance requirements section chief (left), during the 19th Air Force Maintenance Training Center activation ceremony on Oct. 29, 2020, at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas. Photo: Sean M. Worrell/USAF

The center was designed to meet the educational and practical aspects of maintenance training.

Its top level features office and classroom space, while its main level features a floor that was resurfaced to suit AETC’s aircraft, “specialized electrical components” to power the airframes, and new lighting and overhead heating, the wing wrote. 

Other renovations included changing the hangar’s doors to ensure planes can be towed in and out, and removing paint from some windowpanes to let in natural light.

Maintenance students and instructors will share the building with Randolph’s 502nd Civil Engineer Squadron, which will use the northern portion of the hangar, the wing said.