Wichita The aging fleet of KC-135 air tankers at McConnell Air Force Base is getting a complete overhaul.
Col. Cathy Clothier, the base's commander, unveiled the first refurbished tanker Monday.
She said the tanker, built in 1960, is the same age as she is.
"How many people would drive to work in autos that old?" she said. "But we routinely send these planes into war arenas every day."
She said crews were dismantling, sandblasting, repainting and reassembling 30 of the tankers, which range in age from 42 to 49 years.
A 14-member crew spent 30 days refurbishing the first KC-135.
But future planes are expected to take only 18 days to update, said Col. Arnold Florez, maintenance group commander.
He hopes to do seven or eight every year at a cost of about $30,000 to $40,000 each.
"We have replaced bits and pieces through the years," Clothier said. "We changed the engines in the 1980s to make them quieter, which I'm sure Wichita appreciates. ... But this degree of refurbishment is phenomenal."