by Senior Airman Zachary Cacicia
436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
2/3/2016 - DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. -- Anyone
who has ever worked inside an Air Force aircraft maintenance hangar
knows the hard truth that they are not the greatest at staying warm
inside. This is especially true when the hangar's massive doors are
opened to allow aircraft to move in or out. During the right conditions,
temperatures inside these facilities can plummet to subzero digits
within minutes of the doors opening. When this air rushes in, it can
cause exposed piping to freeze and even burst.
To solve the problem of a freezing fire suppression system's piping
inside Hangar 715, the 436th Civil Engineer Squadron's structures and
utilities shops came up with a solution that will save the Air Force
thousands of dollars in potential future pipe bursts.
"When they open these doors to allow these massive planes to come in,
all that wind that blows in, hits these fire suppression systems and
freezes them," said Staff Sgt. Casey Reed, 436th CES water and fuels
systems maintenance. So when it's five degrees outside and you have a
wind-chill coming in, it's going to get cold quick."
When these pipes freeze, they run the risk of bursting causing the
system to release its fire suppression foam throughout the entire
hangar. Also, if they freeze, and if there is an actual fire emergency,
the system may not trip properly putting the facility, the aircraft and
the personnel in greater danger. Replacing these fire suppression units
cost the Air Force thousands of dollars. So there was a need for an
Furthermore, the foam used in the fire suppression systems is
environmentally hazardous. This means, that if it were to be discharged
in the hangar, a special clean-up crew would have to be called in to
resolve the mess, costing the Air Force money.
A combined effort between the CE structures shop and the utilities shop came up with a fix.
"The half inch pipes, the smaller pipes on the fire suppression systems
would get cold enough to explode," said Staff Sgt. Ryan Hylton, 436th
CES structural craftsman. "They couldn't put pipe insulation around the
piping, so we were given the task to build an enclosure of some sort
that would insulate the pipes."
Hylton and four structures Airmen built five custom enclosures around the fire suppression systems in the hangar.
"It was a completely custom job because each one of the piping
suppression units was a totally different dimension," Hylton said.
Material wise, Hylton repurposed left over materials from finished jobs to include all of the plywood sheets used.
"The only thing that we had to buy was the actual insulation itself," said Hylton. "In all it cost about $700."
This $700 is a small price compared to the potential thousands of dollars of damage that could be caused by a burst pipe.
The insulation structures act to trap warm air when the hangar doors
open. They completely enclose the systems to prevent cold air from
reaching the pipes.
"The structure creates about a 10 to 12 degree temperature difference," said Hylton. "And those few degrees matter."
The structures are also equipped with thermometers that monitor the temperature both inside the structure and outside.
"Whenever the doors open, the facility manager will monitor the
temperature gauge," said Reed. "If the temperature gets too low, they'll
call us to come shut down the systems to prevent damage."