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Behind the Lines: Original hangar at Robins AFB still crucial to base's mission

From WWII bombers to today's giant C-5 planes, the hangar has housed a wide array of planes in the last 80 years.

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. — Missions have come and gone at Robins Air Force Base since it opened 80 years ago, but one thing has stayed the same. The first hangar ever built on the base is still in use today, although its look and purpose are a bit different.

"It's the largest facility we have here on the flight line," said Col. Dan Cornelius, Commander of the 402nd Aircraft Maintenance Group. "Over the years, it has been the host to the 'Who's Who' of aircraft in the history of the United States Air Force."

That list includes the A-20 bomber and C-47 airlifter.

"That aircraft was used to move troops around Normandy and also was the backbone of the Berlin Airlift," said Cornelius.

Over the years, the planes got upgrades and so did the hangar. First built in 1942 for roughly $3.1 million, the roof was made partially of wood. It's a far cry from the intricate catwalks and metal scaffolding hanging above now.

"If it were to be built today, it would cost over $370 million to build," said Cornelius.

The most notable changes to the space are these large coves built on a rail system that close to cover the tails of the gigantic C-5 planes.

"The C-5 is much larger than the designers of this facility ever anticipated this aircraft being," said Cornelius.

The 402nd Air Maintenance Group handles the depot work done inside the hangar and around the base. They have more than 3,000 employees, mostly civilians, working on everything from routine maintenance to plane modifications and repairs. Col. Cornelius says they're the largest group at Robins and one of the largest in the entire Air Force.

Not only does the 402nd maintain three C-5s in the space at a time, they eventually plan to fit about six F-15s as well.

"We're just starting to move that F-15 work into here," said Cornelius. "The workload requirements for F-15s increases quite a bit this year."

More F-15s to fix means they'll need more space and Cornelius says this hangar will prove crucial to helping his team get the work done. They even added an opening to tow the jets in to their new home.

While there are a lot of new things happening in the hangar, you can still find nods to the original building around, from the artwork outside to an original Wellston Air Depot grate.


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