Guardsman hopes to prepare the past for the future

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. David Speicher
  • 175th Wing Public Affairs
A Maryland Air Guardsman was looking to volunteer and get his hands dirty in his spare time. During the summer of 2014, he found it across the runway from the 175th Wing in the Glenn L. Martin Maryland Aviation Museum at Martin State Airport.

Staff Sgt. Dave Ranlet, 175th Logistic Readiness Squadron supply technician, now spends most Saturdays restoring engines from planes that are part of local history.

"It is easy to get addicted to," said Ranlet who typically spends eight hours every Saturday volunteering at the museum. With the exception of the one weekend a month of National Guard training, he and his son, Jake, work with other volunteers at the museum that focuses on Maryland and Baltimore aviation history.

The museum has a lot local history due to the Glenn L. Martin Company in Middle River built about 11,000 airplanes here, especially during World War II.

"I went looking for a volunteer project. When I told them I am prior maintenance on C-130s, they were enthusiastic about me joining," said Ranlet.

"Dave is someone unique because of his association with the Air Guard and his previous experience with engines," said Ted Cooper, director of operations for the museum. He said Ranlet has been working on airplanes for a long time whereas most of volunteers show up with no knowledge of airplanes. "He helps us understand how they work."

"I missed getting my hands dirty and engines were always my thing. I love the heavy metal hardware. I am a big World War II buff," said Ranlet, who previously worked in the engine shop when the Maryland Air National Guard had C-130J cargo planes.

Ranlet has found his first project in restoring one of the six engines at the museum. He and another engine shop volunteer, John W. Steele, are working in the basement of what is now called Middle River Aircraft Systems. They are tearing down and rebuilding the engines that we originally built in Middle River. Their current project is restoring a R-2800 Pratt & Whitney engine, that was used in more than 30 aircraft from the World War II era.

In the cavernous basement, Ranlet and Steele are explorers finding lost treasure.

"It's like your grandfather's basement, we are always finding bits and pieces," said Steele, who with Ranlet find pleasure in coming across odd parts that have sat gathering dust.

Because most volunteers don't have the aircraft maintenance background, Ranlet brings important safety skills to museum.

"He is a valued asset and a personal friend. He has the smarts to bring the engine shop to life in a safe and current way," said Steele.

Just like working on current Air Force aircraft, they follow manuals during their work. The museum wants to display an engine model that is as close to running as possible said Steele.

"It needs to look really cool to get people motivated," said Ranlet.

Ranlet recalled working on a plane when there were young visitors were watching. He remembers removing an engine from an old Navy fighter and three or four kids saying that he was fixing the airplane as if it was going to fly again. He stopped for a second and thought about it. It made him feel like a kid again.

"Because kids don't believe they can't. They see these planes and they don't see that they are not going to fly. All they see is a beautiful airplane," said Ranlet. "They enjoy it for what it is, not what it isn't."

"We need young volunteers that could fall in love with the place," said Ranlet.

Because most of the current volunteers are well over age 50. Ranlet thinks the Airmen of the Maryland Air National Guard might be a potential pool of aviation enthusiasts who would volunteer at the museum.

The next project will be putting back together a Martin AM-1 Mauler. The museum has the parts of two airplanes. "We'll at least make one out of two. It's going to require a lot of work," said Ranlet.

Fifty years from now Steele can picture children looking at A-10s and C-130s like they look at the museum pieces of today.

"We get tons of kids in when we do open houses. You find a kid or two or three that their eyes really light up when they sit in a cockpit," said Steele. "Those are the pilots; the mechanics of the future."