ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. — One of the original buildings at Robins remains a major part of maintenance operations on the base, and that likely will continue for many years to come.
There's actually not much choice, because logistically replacing Building 125 is almost impossible. Work on the C-5 Galaxy, one of the largest military planes in the world, is done there.
Even if the Air Force had the money to replace the enormous building, there's nowhere else to do the work on planes that size temporarily if the current building were razed and a new one put in its place, officials said.
The planes are too important for the work to be delayed while a new building is constructed. There's also nowhere else on the flight line to build a hangar that size in a new location.
"(Building) 125 is the heart of our industrial complex," said Scott Hastings, director of the 78th Civil Engineer Squadron. "If you look at the map, you are really constrained in where you are going to put another building that size. The room just isn't there."
That's why, despite being more than 70 years old, the huge building is undergoing significant renovation with a new roof and upgraded fire-suppression system. It's a $56 million project that started six months ago and is expected to take two years.
If that price sounds expensive for a roof replacement, consider that the building is 595,000 square feet, which is 13.7 acres or about 10 football fields.
The work is being done in sections so it doesn't shut down the C-5 work.
Scott said there wouldn't be a great advantage in a new building other than energy efficiency.
Construction of Building 125 began in 1941 and was completed in 1942, said Bill Head, the base historian. By 1943, work was going in full force, inside and outside the hangars, he said. The base worked on a large variety of aircraft, and unlike today, there would have been different models of aircraft being worked on simultaneously under one roof.
Middle Georgians who worked in Building 125 back then fought the Germans and Japanese with wrenches and screw drivers. They repaired B-17s bombers, P-51 fighters and just about every other kind of aircraft used in the war, Head said. Not unlike today, cargo aircraft was a major part of the workload.
Head said the work done in places like Robins is vital to any military effort.
"If you don't have guys back here working their tails off, then you don't have anything to fly," he said.
There are two other original buildings still in use — Buildings 110 and 220 — as well as some senior officers' homes. Building 110 is the base operations building, and Building 220, which was the original base headquarters, is being used by the Air Force Materiel Command.
When Robins was under construction, a mobile sawmill was brought in, Head said, so a lot of timber in the original buildings came from base property.
Information from: The Macon Telegraph, http://www.macontelegraph.com