Joint Base Charleston

 

Fabrication flight keeps 'em flying

By Senior Airman Michael Matkin | 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs | October 15, 2009

SOUTHWEST ASIA -- What is art? Is it creating a beautiful painting or sculpture? Is art taking raw metal and forming it into a perfect size and shape that allows a multi-million dollar aircraft to fly? One might not see items produced or repaired by the 379th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron fabrication flight in the National Gallery of Art any time soon, but these 'works of art' continue to keep aircraft in the fight -- 24/7, 365 days a year.

"The 379 EMXS fabrication flight repairs and maintains aircraft parts for all U.S. Air Force aircraft assigned to the base, as well as Navy, Royal Australian Air Force and British Royal Air Force aircraft," said Master Sgt. Jack Taylor, 379 EMXS fabrication flight aircraft structural maintainer, deployed from Charleston Air Force Base, S.C.

The more than 30-member shop performs maintenance on external sheet metal, internal framework, composites, fiberglass, and plastic, as well as tubing and cable assemblies on aircraft. To accomplish these tasks, the flight is partitioned into two sections: aircraft structural maintenance and metal technology, Sergeant Taylor said.

The aircraft structural maintenance section is responsible for sheet metal and composite repairs and the creation of hydraulic tubing.

"We do the general sheet metal fabrication. If the aircraft or part is broken and needs to be patched or reformed, we repair it," said Senior Airman David Denis, 379 EMXS fabrication flight aircraft structural maintenance journeyman, deployed from Charleston AFB.

Within the structural maintenance shop is the corrosion control section which has the ability to take parts and remove primer, paint and rust by blasting them with a mixture of glass and plastic beads. The section can then repaint the object and return it to the flightline.

One of the main responsibilities of corrosion control is C-130 Hercules wheel repairs. "When an aircraft wheel is sent to us we will first remove the old paint and then send it to be inspected for structural integrity. After the wheel is deemed structurally sound it is returned to us, we repaint it and send it back to the flightline," said Senior Airman Joseph Jurek, 379 EMXS fabrication flight aircraft structural maintenance journeyman deployed from McConnell AFB, Kan.

The metals technology section is a combination of a welding and a machine shop. This section manufactures most of the items produced by the shop.

"If an aircraft part cannot be easily acquired we can take raw metal and produce an exact copy," Sergeant Taylor said.

Besides repairing and reproducing aircraft parts, the flight also works with other sections on base. They have repaired ammo trailers and hoists, air and ground equipment and even made tire racks for the 379th Expeditionary Logistics and Readiness Squadron, Airman Jurek said.

The Fabrication flight also works with sister services here on base. Recently, members of the structural maintenance section were asked to assist the British Royal Air Force repair a right main landing gear hydraulic line on a C-130J Hercules. Members of the section suggested to the RAF maintainers that instead of replacing the entire line, they could use a special method to splice in a small repair section of hydraulic line. The RAF maintainers, not familiar with the method, sought approval through their chain of command. Once the approval was given, members of the section fabricated the repair line and spliced it in.

By utilizing this method, they introduced RAF maintainers to a new repair technique and saved approximately 96 maintenance man-hours, said Senior Master Sgt. Steven Rawlins, 379 EMXS fabrication flight chief, deployed from McGuire AFB, N.J.

"Because we work with different shops and services, communication between us and other shops is important. We have to make sure we know what they need from us so we can either reproduce or return the needed part to its original structural strength, while maintaining the original contour, aerodynamics and general appearance," Airman Denis said.

Working with the different shops and aircraft here on base is a new opportunity for many members of the flight.

"Although we are trained to work on all aircraft, we usually don't have that opportunity," Airman Denis said. "At my home station, I only work on the C-17 Globemaster III, but here we work on all aircraft on base as well as some small non-aircraft jobs."

Working on unfamiliar aircraft can be a challenge for members of the fabrication flight since different technical orders are used for each aircraft. Not being familiar with the T.O. can make it hard to find information on a specific repair when needed, Airman Denis said. However, because of the mechanical diversity of the shop, there is usually someone who knows where to find the information.

If a C-17 Globemaster III is having a problem, Airman Denis said he knows exactly where to look. Like a lot of Air Force jobs, the fabrication flight's jobs are often a team effort.

"Working on all the different aircraft while also being deployed is an eye opener," Airman Jurek said. "It puts our job in perspective by giving us a broader view of the Air Force and its overall mission."

Airman Denis agreed. "The job we do here really makes a difference. We get to see the difference we are making every day, up close. Seeing an aircraft take off and return from a mission is a great feeling; you know that you helped make that mission possible. For example, we fixed a hydraulic problem with a B-1B Lancer that was previously inoperable, but now it flies and contributes to the mission because of the work we did."

Stepping up to create, reform and renew aircraft parts can be seen as a work of art or just another day in the AOR for members of the 379 EMXS fabrication flight.


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