INDUSTRIAL: HVAC for U.S. Air Force Hangars

United Mechanical tackles its fifth hangar project — the KC-46A Three Bay Maintenance Hangar at Tinker Air Force Base in Midwest City, Oklahoma.

The opportunity to work with the United States Air Force has been equally exciting and challenging for United Mechanical, headquartered in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The company is just beginning work on the KC-46A Three Bay Maintenance Hangar at Tinker Air Force Base in Midwest City. This will be the fifth hangar on which the company has performed HVAC and plumbing work. These have been high-profile projects, and United Mechanical is proud to be involved. 

This latest Three Bay Hangar is just under 150,000 square feet, and the total construction contract is $148,925,456 — with the mechanical portion being around $25,000,000. At a glimpse, sheet metal labor for this project will include 3,800 shop hours and 21,900 field hours, plus 200,000 pounds of galvanized sheet metal. Piping and plumbing labor onsite hours are budgeted at 33,000 hours. All the labor is furnished through Sheet Metal Workers Local 124 and Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 344.

Kyle Bellmon, company president, says that United Mechanical was able to secure this job after success on the previous hangar projects, which included working with the current general contractor, Harper Construction. Harper named United Mechanical their exclusive mechanical contractor from the start of this job.

“The project is being performed on a design-assist basis, so we are working closely with Harper’s mechanical engineer to develop the plans and specifications,” says Bellmon. “Since we have been working on the base for the last six or seven years, we have knowledge of the owner’s intent.” 

Patrick Gray, the project manager on this and the three previous hangar projects, says that given the high-profile nature of this job, there is some intensity around scheduling, inspections, paperwork and rigorous safety checks. 

“We are interacting with the Air Force, which is an honor but also very involved,” Gray says. “We are also working under a time crunch.”

The project kicked off on January 18 and is scheduled for completion in July 2025.

A unique aspect of this job is the height at which the work needs to be done. 

“Most of the ductwork and other mechanical systems hang high in the space, so our workers have to get used to working in lifts as high as 80 to 90 feet in the air,” says Bellmon. “Safety is of the utmost importance, and we have a safety plan in place.” 

Bellmon adds that the team became accustomed to working with the lifts on previous hangar work.

“On one of those jobs, we also dealt with a lot of mud, so even just backing the boom and lift up was a challenge,” he recalls. “In the two bay hangars, we must use an articulating boom which is even bigger and can swivel around to reach all of the necessary angles. It’s definitely a different experience than required on some of our other work.” 

On this project, the Army Corps of Engineers is the middleman between the end user and United Mechanical. 

Bellmon says that they have their own safety team, along with United Mechanical’s safety coordinator, that comes out regularly to inspect everything. The harnesses and the lift are consistently checked, and the team has been thoroughly trained.

While the Tinker hangar projects have been some of the company’s largest, others include the Hobby Lobby warehouses and office buildings, Integris Heart Hospital, Will Rogers World Airport and Winstar Casino GEC and Central Plant. United Mechanical was first formed in 1975 and incorporated in 1976 by Steve Bruno as a small plumbing/piping shop. By 1980, the company had grown enough to go into the sheet metal business. The construction group handles projects ranging from medical and institutional to office work. United Mechanical employs a minimum of 150 plumbers, pipefitters and sheet metal workers. They also have 35 service technicians serving the Oklahoma City area and western Oklahoma. 

Regarding this specific project, Bellmon says, “it is always a privilege to build projects that help our nation and our national defense.” 

Gray agrees. “It’s really neat to look back at a project like this when it’s finished and tell your kids you were a part of it,” he says. “It’s something you feel special about when you drive by.”