Aircraft paint method gets EPA thumbs up

  • Published
  • By Wayne Crenshaw
  • 78th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
When Robins is asked to try some new "environmentally-friendly" product, it often turns out that the product doesn't meet the effectiveness test, said Clay Elliot, C-5 corrosion engineer.

That is why he and others at Robins are excited that a new aircraft paint product is not only much better for the environment and maintainers who apply it, but it also seems to work better.

"The whole DOD is pushing for green initiatives and this is one of those that actually ended up being a benefit to the C-5," said Mr. Elliott, who is in the 330th Aircraft Sustainment Wing. "It helps corrosion-fighting properties in the primer do their job a little better."

He is referring to PreKote Surface Pretreatment made by Pantheon Chemical. It is sprayed on aircraft as the first step in the paint process, following by spraying of the primer and then the paint. On Wednesday, Warner Robins Air Logistics Center received an Environmental Protection Agency Plaque of Recognition for its use of the product.

PreKote, which is non-toxic, replaces other pre-paint treatment processes that included an acid etch and hexavalent chrome, a known carcinogen. That process required maintainers to suit up with respirators and personnel protective equipment, or PPE, said James Cranford, deputy flight chief of the corrosion control flight. With PreKote, workers don't have to use respirators or as much protective clothing, and that has made the product popular. "The main thing they like about it is they don't have to wear as much PPE, and they don't have to worry about as much exposure to hazardous material," Mr. Cranford said.

PreKote was first used on C-130s about three years ago at the suggestion of Todd Lavender, an environmental engineer in the 402nd Maintenance Wing. He said the C-5s started using PreKote about a year ago, and the first test will be done on a C-17 in a few weeks.

"I think our guys really like working with the stuff better than the old material," he said.

Col. Robert Stambaugh, vice commander of the WR-ALC, accepted the EPA award on behalf of the center. Plaques were also given to representatives of the C-5 and C-130 program offices. He called those who backed the use of PreKote "innovators" in promoting workplace safety.

"You shouldn't have to come to work worrying if you're going to get sick doing your job, and they got rid of that," Colonel Stambaugh said.

Jeaneanne Gettle, the EPA's acting deputy of the Air, Pesticides and Toxics Management Division, presented the award.

"This is an important award because this is given under a program to promote innovation in industry to move toward environmentally-friendly products that get as good or better results," she said. "The goal is to move us in a direction that is more protective of human health and the environment."

According to Mr. Elliot, the new process also saves about $60,000 in labor costs because it reduces some pre-paint masking and aircraft washing necessary under the previous process.

Although PreKote has only been in use at Robins for three years, Mr. Elliot said its long-term effectiveness has been proven through its use in the commercial airline industry.

He said an estimated 85 percent of hazardous materials used by the Air Force are related to depot weapon-system maintenance, and the majority is tied to corrosion prevention and control.