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Fly, rinse, repeat

An F-15 Eagle goes through a birdbath Aug. 19, 2016, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. The birdbath is a vital component of maintaining the longevity of Kadena’s fighter aircraft. The birdbath prevents corrosion from building up on the aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Lynette M. Rolen)

An F-15 Eagle goes through a birdbath Aug. 19, 2016, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. The birdbath is a vital component of maintaining the longevity of Kadena’s fighter aircraft. The birdbath prevents corrosion from building up on the aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Lynette M. Rolen)

A KC-135 Stratotanker goes through a birdbath Aug. 22, 2016, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. The official name for the birdbath is the aircraft rinse system. The birdbath has a rinse time of 90 seconds, ensuring the aircraft is properly washed. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Lynette M. Rolen)

A KC-135 Stratotanker goes through a birdbath Aug. 22, 2016, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. The official name for the birdbath is the aircraft rinse system. The birdbath has a rinse time of 90 seconds, ensuring the aircraft is properly washed. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Lynette M. Rolen)

Senior Airman Jeffrey Kirkham, 18th Civil Engineer Squadron Water and Fuels System Maintenance (WFSM) journeyman, prepares to check one of the pumps of a birdbath Aug. 22, 2016, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. The 18th CES WFSM team checks the birdbath system for functionality. The team can turn off one of the pumps manually and check the others for efficiency. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Lynette M. Rolen)

Senior Airman Jeffrey Kirkham, 18th Civil Engineer Squadron Water and Fuels System Maintenance (WFSM) journeyman, prepares to check one of the pumps of a birdbath Aug. 22, 2016, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. The 18th CES WFSM team checks the birdbath system for functionality. The team can turn off one of the pumps manually and check the others for efficiency. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Lynette M. Rolen)

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Upon your return from a routine mission over the Pacific Ocean as a top-grade pilot, you realize your aircraft is in desperate need of a good rinse-down in order to prevent corrosion.

Members of the 18th Civil Engineer Squadron Water and Fuels System Maintenance (WFSM) team ensure the aircraft rinse system, “birdbath,” is ready for use by Kadena’s aircraft.

The birdbath plays a vital role in keeping top performance of the aircraft. Without it, the elements present in the Pacific region would corrode the jets to a point of disuse.

“The birdbath is very important because the natural elements can affect the plane once it flies,” said Staff Sgt. Edward Adade, 18th CES WFSM technician. “This could increase the corrosion on the planes, which could cost the Air Force a lot of money. This system is the best method for corrosion control, because we’re just using regular water to rinse the planes.”

The process works like a water fountain. Approaching aircraft trigger a sensor, and the water rises for a certain amount of time.

“The aircraft drive on the pressure plate, once the pressure plate is triggered, it kicks on the pumps,” said Adade. “The pumps send water through the ballast tanks, and then it sprays the water to wash the plane off.”

Although the system is sensor-driven, WFSM team members often come out to the station powering the birdbath.

Senior Airman Jeffrey Kirkham, 18th CES WFSM journeyman, mentioned his fellow team members will check certain pumps for functionality and monitor the system for consistency.

The water used to rinse the aircraft is chemical-free and goes through a filtration system for the next use, fulfilling the dual purpose of saving money and the environment.

In addition to being rewarding for the Air Force and environment, this system is professionally rewarding for those who maintain it.

“This has been a really unique experience,” said Kirkham. “This is one of the largest WFSM shops in the Air Force; I’ve seen a lot during my time here. I’ve learned to adapt to a situation and overcome it because of the unique situation we have here in Okinawa.”